Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) - Sacred Heart Mission, supporting people to exit long-term homelessness
Sacred Heart Mission is currently undertaking the second phase of our Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program. This follows the pilot which ran from 2009 – 2012.
Through partnerships with VincentCare (Ozanam Community Centre) and St Mary’s House of Welcome, we are supporting 60 people who are experiencing long-term, chronic homelessness for up to three years.
J2SI takes a significant departure from existing approaches and sets a new benchmark for addressing long-term homelessness in Australia. It's different as it takes a relationship-based approach, provides long-term support, and works from the premise that if people can sustain their housing and manage their complex health issues, this provides a solid foundation to the next steps of building skills, becoming a part of the community and contributing to society. Ultimately J2SI saves lives, reduces reliance on the service system including expensive health and emergency services, and prevents people from being incarcerated.
The J2SI pilot, which supported 40 people over three years, delivered impressive results. A study undertaken a year after service delivery came to an end, showed that 75% of participants remained in stable housing after four years, 80% had seen a decline in the need for health services and the pilot offered savings to government of up to $32,080 per participant.
The Australian Government acknowledged the pilot with a National Homelessness Services Award for excellence and innovation in 2013. It has also received a Council to Homeless Persons award for excellence in ending homelessness for adults.
J2SI Phase 2 builds upon learnings from the pilot
Based on findings from the pilot, the program has been refined, and expanded from 40 to 60 participants and geographically beyond St Kilda to include Melbourne’s inner-north through the partnerships with St Mary’s House of Welcome and VincentCare (Ozanam Community Centre).
There are 5 elements of the Phase 2 service model:
· Assertive case management and service coordination
· Housing access and sustaining tenancies
· Trauma informed practice
· Building skills for inclusion
· Fostering independence
The Centre for Social Impact, University of Western Australia is conducting the impact and economic evaluations by benchmarking outcomes for J2SI participants against a group using existing services and a number of reports will be released throughout the duration of the program.
This second phase is key to demonstrating the scalability and replicability of J2SI with a view to rolling out the program in areas of high, chronic homelessness in Australia through a licensing arrangement with other agencies.
It is being funded by the Victorian Government, philanthropy and Sacred Heart Mission.
J2SI into the future
· We are working to develop a licensing model so more people can be supported to exit long-term homelessness.
· Our future vision is to have the J2SI program delivered by partner service providers under license across Australia.
· A Centre of Excellence will be established to gather, analyse and disseminate evidence of the impact of J2SI in achieving an end to long-term homelessness.
Why the need for J2SI
Long-term homelessness is a significant indicator that the service system is failing people who have complex needs. Of the 105,000 Australians who are homeless, an estimated 22,000 are trapped in the cycles of long-term homelessness.
Our current service system is crisis orientated. It fails to address the compounding issues that result in long-term homelessness: shortage of affordable housing, ongoing unemployment, mental health issues, substance abuse, failed transitions from state care or prison, relationship breakdowns and family violence. There is also a strong connection between trauma and long-term homelessness. Many people who are long-term homeless report high levels of abuse and other traumatic experiences, often in childhood.
The current system is ill-equipped to manage the level and intensity of support required to help people exit long-term homelessness.
For each Australian who is long-term homeless, it costs the community between $900,000 and $5.5 million.*
* ‘Lifecourse Institutional Costs of Homelessness for Vulnerable Groups’, School of Social Science, University of New South Wales.
At 40 years of age, Patrick has experienced housing instability, transience and homelessness for over 20 years. He has slept rough and resided in boarding houses and supported accommodation. As a child Patrick was diagnosed with a learning disability and struggled through school. As an adult he has battled substance abuse, spent time in prison and has a history of self-harm. He has had only sporadic contact with his family, commenting that ‘they always expect me to mess up and I usually do’. Prior to J2SI he often made comments such as that failure was ‘the one thing [he] could rely on’.
Through the J2SI pilot, Patrick was supported by one caseworker over three years in the areas of housing, therapeutic services, and a skills building program helping to equip participants with life skills, reconnect with the mainstream community and build social networks outside the homeless subculture.
Since Patrick stopped receiving J2Si support in 2012 he has been residing in stable, affordable housing for over four years.
He has a dog which he adores and is in regular contact with his family. He completed a Certificate IV level course and participates in paid part-time employment. Patrick has met new people through his job and enjoys working. He pays his rent and bills, has just bought himself new furniture and no longer eats his meals at Sacred Heart Mission.
Interview with 'Valerie', J2SI pilot case worker
Generally speaking, what challenges were the participants facing?
The J2SI participants all had a history of chronic homelessness and were described as having multiple and complex needs. In general, this population had multiple episodes of accessing services and were considered to be the individuals that most required enduring support to break this cycle of homelessness and service dependence. Many J2SI participants suffered from issues relating to physical health, mental health, alcohol and other drug use, legal, financial and social problems. Many of the participants also reported a history of childhood trauma and abuse.
What were the benefits of having the time to be able to provide intensive support to your clients?
Intensive support over three years allowed the J2SI caseworkers to build relationships with their participants. This relationship in turn allowed the caseworkers to work with their participants in a manner that was trauma informed. The relationship fostered trust and the enduring support helped the participants to work towards their goals inside a therapeutic framework. A huge bonus of having such a long support period was that the goals could be approached, to most extent, in the participant’s own time. In this way, the support was more person-centred than traditional case management approaches. The caseworkers could also use their relationships with the participants to challenge the participants to explore their own abilities in a manner that could normally result in the person withdrawing from a service.
Can you give one example?
In one example, a J2SI participant had a history of “running away” when workers or organisations tried to assist with issues that were “too hard” for the participant to deal with. Their J2SI worker spent many hours visiting State Trustees in the city and other support services in different suburbs, in order to “bump into” the partcipant and provide on-the-spot intervention support. This response was eventually accepted by the participant and rather than find it odd that their worker would appear, the person started to expect the worker and be grateful for the response. This eventually resulted in the partcipant accessing Sacred Heart Mission to see the worker, however this process took months and was only possible because of the nature of the J2SI program. The resulting engagement meant that the worker could assist the participant to secure public housing and start to work towards their health goals.
Overall, what impact did you see the program had in the lives of the people you worked with?
Overall, the impact of the J2SI program appeared to be positive for the participants. The majority experienced periods of secure housing and were able to address issues relating to health, mental health, AOD, legal and final issues. Many were able to address their social inclusion goals. Some participants were successful in reconnecting with family and others secured employment. These outcomes were not easily achieved and the importance of the experience, if even for a short while, can not be overstated. Likewise, for many J2SI participants, the relationship they held with their worker was of great importance – it may have been the only positive relationship they were experiencing at that time.
Can you recall one particular event that shows the positive impact J2SI had on a participant?
One J2SI participant was able to maintain their housing immaculately – creating a real sense of “home”. They saved their Centrelink pension during the three years and managed to buy a brand new sofa, TV, coffee table and kitchen furniture. The person was incredibly proud of their achievements and stated this was where they wanted to be for the rest of their life. The pride in having a “home” that they could show off encouraged the participant to reconnect with family and have relatives come to visit. Having a safe and secure home allowed the participant to focus on their diet and shopping habits. They cooked meals at home and started addressing their health needs.