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Changing lives with the St Kilda Intensive Outreach Team (SKIOT)

Two women talking and laughing

15 October 2019

An initiative providing a place-based, intensive case management response to rough sleeping in St Kilda by connecting people with housing and support services, has already housed 51 people and helped more than 80 people since December 2017.

Developed in response to a growing challenge of rough sleeping onsite, the St Kilda Intensive Outreach Team (SKIOT) is a skilled assertive outreach and engagement program created and led by the Mission in partnership with Launch Housing.

Chris Middendorp, Manager Sacred Heart Central, explains it is much easier to begin a housing and support plan when a person is already familiar or engaged with your service than it is to approach someone sleeping rough.

“Our place-based response to homelessness offers almost unmatchable opportunities to engage with rough sleepers who are often hard to reach,” Chris says.

“Our expertise in working with this cohort is well established ... but we knew we needed more resources, and to find strategies, including more time to work deeper and more effectively with an often chaotic group of people with substance use issues, untreated mental ill health and long histories of trauma.”

Thanks to additional Victorian Government funding of $368,000 we recruited two additional intensive case managers to provide clients with intensive longer-term outreach support, which allowed us to adjust the caseloads of two existing case managers from a three-month case management period (the standard length of homelessness funded case management), to an extended 12-month period.

We also sharpened the focus of our women’s complex needs case manager to work exclusively with women sleeping rough and partnered with Launch Housing.

Launch Housing secured 10 private rental head lease properties to provide a rapid housing supply.

Of the 84 people supported by SKIOT, five had more than four housing breakdowns, which highlights the complex situations people face and shows that even after a year of support many people need ongoing assistance to maintain permanent housing.

Seven of the 51 people housed continue to be supported by our Journey to Social Inclusion and GreenLight Supportive Housing programs.

To end rough sleeping for people with complex issues we recognize what works best: rapid access to stable housing and intensive case management and service coordination to assist people to maintain their housing.

“It may require months or years to help a person build their capacity to problem solve and cope with the challenges of everyday living,” Chris says.

“Maintaining a home requires diverse skills and constant work.”

Drop-in style services such as our Engagement Hub and our nearby Women’s House Open-Access Service (which offers a similar safe space for women) are an effective central point for dozens of people sleeping rough who use these venues daily to access food, showers and support.

Through SKIOT we now know the names and backgrounds of almost everyone we have encountered on our front veranda over the past six months.

“These are stories of great loss, but also of significant potential and hope,” Chris says.

“People’s resilience and creativity, their capacity to survive despite extraordinary challenges remains a central inspiration for all staff involved in this work.”

Additional resources were secured through the Victorian Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan initiative.

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