The importance of sustaining tenancies

Olivia Killeen, Communication and Social Policy Officer
Olivia Killeen Communication and Social Policy Officer
12 July 2022
Group photo of the GreenLight team

Imagine finally being approved for a public or community housing property when you have never had a tenancy before. You move into your property, but you don’t have the support you need, and the tenancy breaks down.

This is exactly what Sacred Heart Mission’s GreenLight program works to prevent. It is a highly flexible program working with clients as they take on a new tenancy – in public, community or transitional housing, including rooming houses. GreenLight clients have histories of homelessness and often complex health and mental health needs and require support to build the skills they need to sustain their new tenancies.

How does GreenLight work?

The small team of five – Gabriel, Penny, Gareth, Stella and Brenton – work together to support clients with everything related to their tenancy, including obtaining furniture, settling rental arrears, maintenance requests or property damage. They also work with clients on their goals for maintaining their housing into the future.

GreenLight offers support for up to two years. Some clients only require a few months of support, but others need the full two years. After a support period ends, clients can then be referred to other Sacred Heart Mission programs where more long-term support is provided if they need it.

Peer Settlement Support Workers, who have a lived experience of homelessness, also work alongside clients in the program, providing unique support on their journey to stable housing.

GreenLight also features a Health and Wellbeing Worker, who acts as a “community expert”, making connections and referrals for clients to access community health services. This may include low-cost and bulk-billed physical and mental health services, social inclusion activities, accessing the NDIS or connecting to employment services. It’s vital that clients have access to these services to help them rebuild their lives, especially responsive mental health care.

The GreenLight program was launched in 2019 and is funded through the Victorian Government’s Rough Sleeper Action Plan, which is a consortia effort made up of Sacred Heart Mission, The Salvation Army and VincentCare. Over the last financial year, the GreenLight consortia supported more than 270 clients, exceeding its targets, and has already been extended through to June 2023 to ensure more people can be supported to sustain their new tenancies.

The importance of sustaining tenancies

Sustaining tenancies is at the heart of the GreenLight program. “To sustain a tenancy is to make someone feel happy and safe in their home and connected to their community, so they can foster independence and deal with things themselves,” says team member Gareth. A secure tenancy equals a future free from homelessness.

The GreenLight team are all passionate and caring individuals who are highly supportive of each other and their clients. “We got into this field to help people gain positive outcomes for people and we mirror that within our own team,” shares team member Stella.

GreenLight is a holistic program, and the clients have a wide range of experiences. One of those clients is Dave*.

Dave was a heroin user who was estranged from his family, at risk of suicide and in significant rental arrears. He was at risk of losing his public housing when GreenLight stepped in. The team referred Dave to rehabilitation services, and he underwent a detox.

With two years of the right support from GreenLight, Dave was able to access the NDIS and the Disability Support Pension and maintain his tenancy.

He is now reconnected with his family and has proudly been sober for over a year.

Dave’s story is a great example of how important Sacred Heart Mission’s GreenLight program is in providing targeted support so people can get their lives back on track and break the cycle of homelessness.