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Partnership profile: Justice Connect

Photo of Sam Sowerwine and Cameron Lavery from Justice Connect

13 September 2021

Sacred Heart Mission relies on strong partnerships and strategic collaborations to deliver the highest quality support and care to our clients. For over five years we have partnered with Justice Connect, a legal services organisation that provides representation to vulnerable Victorians.

Since 2016, Justice Connect has supported our Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program participants and GreenLight clients in addressing their legal matters. Justice Connect’s team of lawyers provide our clients with consultations, case management and representation for a range of legal issues including eviction prevention, debts, addressing fines and criminal charges.

Early access to legal help for clients

Jemma Donaghey, a lawyer at Justice Connect, says that for many clients resolving legal issues can be daunting especially if the client has had negative experiences with legal assistance or the justice system. “If a client’s legal issues are not addressed they can snowball later on. Our partnership with Sacred Heart Mission enables people to get seamless and early access to legal help, which reduces anxiety for participants and enables them to be more future focused.”

The partnership not only improves access to legal assistance for people who might otherwise not get it, it also builds capacity for case workers to identify and refer legal issues through training, secondary consultations and streamlined referral pathways.

“Basic needs come first. If someone is still rough sleeping, they often aren’t in the position to engage with help. So if caseworkers can quickly identify and refer a legal matter to Justice Connect, it’s a weight off their shoulders and gives them space to focus on their client’s other needs.”

From eviction prevention to legal training for staff

A huge part of Justice Connect’s practice is eviction prevention. “For clients who have experienced chronic homelessness, we know there are often non-legal issues that can lead to legal problems in a tenancy,” says Jemma. Justice Connect lawyers work in close partnership with Sacred Heart Mission case managers to provide an integrated holistic practice which ensures participants receive both the legal and non-legal support they need to maintain their tenancies.

Karen Lococo, Sacred Heart Mission’s Operations Manager for Engagement Hubs and Individual Planned Support, says the partnership with Justice Connect is invaluable and connects clients to qualified and professional legal support. “Additionally, the Justice Connect team has developed and delivered a multitude of training modules for our staff to ensure they are well versed in tenancy law and other legal issues our clients face. This allows for a fast and tailored response.”

Providing integrated holistic support 

Justice Connect lawyers are able to build rapport with clients and explain their services in a way that is outcomes focused. The partnership between Justice Connect and Sacred Heart Mission is genuine and continues to evolve. “We meet regularly with Sacred Heart Mission and are always reflecting on the opportunities and asking how we can do better,” says Jemma. “We are real believers in the J2SI approach to ending homelessness and are very proud to be involved.”

Ending homelessness is a lot more than providing a roof over someone’s head. It’s about building people’s capacity to sustain stable housing and enjoy a safe, independent and active community life. “It’s amazing to see how we’ve helped clients in so many different parts of their lives. With our assistance, they can deal with their legal issues and focus on their health and future,” says Jemma.

“By working together in partnership with Sacred Heart Mission, we are able to provide people with the integrated support they need to find a place to call home and thrive.”

Learn more about Justice Connect here

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