There is no typical person experiencing homelessness. Everybody is different. Yes, our clients at Sacred Heart Mission often share common experiences, but the support we give is only successful when we work with people as individuals.
Our Program Coordinator Michelle Skog (pictured) explains, in her own words, how our Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program works with people for three years to settle into a home and slowly work towards independently staying in their home:
Our Journey to Social Inclusion program is different because we work with people for three years which affords us the time and resources to support people in ways that genuinely matter to them.
We also work towards people’s strengths and set personal goals around housing, health and well-being, independence, social participation and economic participation.
For *Peter, this meant feeling included in society in some way. Peter was successfully housed through J2SI, and remains so, however, he talks more about the social connections he has made in this process, and what he now enjoys doing in his days.
At the start of the program, Peter lived under a bridge and typically hid from staff and services. He experienced schizophrenia and, when he was first housed, Peter was stood over by other residents. He also rarely left his room.
It was a year before Peter would do more than stand in his doorway for a few minutes when his J2SI Case Manager came to see him. He couldn’t say when he’d last had a phone. He wouldn’t go anywhere near a tram and he’d had no contact with his family for over 10 years.
By the end of two years with J2SI, Peter was meeting his Case Manager weekly at a public library. They have also gone together to ACDC lane and the Collingwood Children’s Farm.
Peter has shared his love of the Richmond Football Club, watching horror movies and reading science fiction. He loves woodworking and animals, and he is crazy about ACDC.
Now Peter travels by tram to his area mental health service. He knows the name of staff at his bank branch and knows his local area. He has his birth certificate, takes guitar lessons at his local church, and he answers his phone.
Peter has recently had dental work and received his first pair of glasses. He has also completed his introductory training to become a Big Issue vendor and, most recently, Peter has started to have regular contact with his two sisters.
Peter says now that he’s doing okay. Through J2SI, Peter has broken the cycle of chronic homelessness by re-engaging with the broader community and developing new and positive support networks. This work involves building a relationship and it takes time.
Peter has done the hard work and it is this program, for its ability to work flexibly and long term with people, that has been the most useful to him.
*Peter is a real person and his story is true. We have changed his name to protect his privacy.
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