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St Vincent’s applauds NSW Government’s new homeless strategy

June 2018

St Vincent’s Health Australia has strongly welcomed the NSW Government’s new homeless strategy saying it represented a serious effort at coming to grips with the state’s worsening homeless problem.

The healthcare organisation – which is a major provider of health services to Sydney’s homeless population via its St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst – said the NSW Government deserved recognition for the way it had consulted providers of services to homeless people and developed a strategy which showed it had clearly listened their advice.

St Vincent’s Health Australia’s CEO, Toby Hall, said the organisation was particularly pleased with the strategy’s emphasis on homeless health.

“The link between homelessness and health is well-documented and people at risk of homelessness can be frequent users of hospital care,” said Mr Hall.

“An unmanaged illness is often the factor that tips a person into homelessness or makes it difficult for them to leave homelessness behind.

“Hospitals provide a unique opportunity to intervene to address both health and housing issues.

“A few years ago we started talking to the NSW Government about how to go about addressing the issue of homeless people exiting hospitals and other state-provided care straight back into homelessness – a major problem in NSW and across Australia.

“We offered up St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney’s Tierney House – a co-located service where homeless people can stay for short-to-medium periods upon leaving hospital, while they convalesce or receive ongoing care, along with help on a range of other important non-health issues, such as housing – as a great example of the type of service that should be replicated around the state.

“That’s why we’re so glad to see the NSW Government invest $6.9 million in developing co-located homeless health services, and namechecking Tierney House as a model that works.

“Given St Vincent’s Sydney’s extensive experience providing outreach health services to roughsleepers in and around the inner city – working to treat illness before it reaches crisis point and requires hospital admission – it’s also heartening to see the Government invest $3.8 million in assertive outreach to support roughsleepers.

“And recognising that screening and discharge planning for homeless people in hospitals needs adequate housing options in the community to be truly effective, it’s good to see a commitment to building 3400 new social and affordable homes.

“It’s a start but we note the need for more investment in this area to meet demand.

“With an eye to NSW’s shortage of social and affordable housing, it’s also heartening to see the funding set aside in the strategy for social investment. This will give an opportunity for housing and homeless service providers to partner with the corporate sector to create innovative responses to the issue.

“It’s been clear to anyone providing services to homeless people in NSW that the situation has been deteriorating badly – not just in Sydney, but throughout the state – over the last decade.

“This strategy represents a definite policy shift. It recognises all sectors have a role in responding to this issue, including health, not just the ‘homelessness sector’.

“We’re very hopeful that this strategy will start to turn that around in the years ahead,” said Mr Hall.

Media contact: Paul Andrews 0409 665 495