The Fleurieu Peninsula is in urgent need for greater homeless support

INVALUABLE: Kirsty Rismondo and Deb Robinson of Junction Australia office in Goolwa with a food hamper to support those in desperate need.
INVALUABLE: Kirsty Rismondo and Deb Robinson of Junction Australia office in Goolwa with a food hamper to support those in desperate need.

Homelessness on the Fleurieu is a hidden issue. Not hidden from those who are engaged in support services but hidden from the majority of the population. Because the community does not see people sleeping rough in a park or asking for a handout in the street.

Many would think there is no homeless issue on the Fleurieu.

Preventing and reducing homelessness is the focus of a nation-leading new homelessness system for South Australia. The State Government, Junction Australia and the Fleurieu Community Foundation (FCF) are working to give support to homelessness.

The Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink released the Future Directions for Homelessness paper, which sets a new direction for South Australia.

Following extensive consultation with homelessness providers and South Australians with lived experience, the much-needed and long overdue reform sets out to prevent people from falling into homelessness, ensure people get the right support they need, when they need it and rapidly rehouse people into safe, stable and long-term housing so they don't cycle in-and-out of homelessness.

Minister Lensink said the new plan focused on organisations working together to create better outcomes for South Australians.

"For too long, the focus has been on the crisis end and people spend years and years cycling in and out of homelessness - our ultimate aim is to get people off the streets for good," Ms Lensink said.

"Our new approach focuses on organisations delivering homelessness services in alliances, rather than as separate organisations, to provide services for those who need them.

"Currently, we are funding around 75 separate homelessness programs in South Australia delivered by over 30 organisations, at a cost of $71.5 million this year. The system is, understandably, difficult to navigate for someone in crisis.

"Our new vision will maintain homelessness funding and most importantly, improve outcomes for people using the system. By working together we can reduce homelessness in our state."

The new reform includes $71.5 million annually for homelessness services in South Australia, including the $3 million Housing Advocacy, Advice and Engagement Service, State Government has committed an additional $20 million for the Homelessness Prevention Fund - the tender for the first $6 million has been released, $7.3 million COVID-19 pandemic response to help people sleeping rough stay safe and $4 million to open 40 additional crisis beds for people experiencing domestic and family violence, including a nine-bed perpetrator trial.

Chair of the FCF Brad Butler said homelessness could look like temporary accommodation such as a tent in the caravan park with your children going to school.

"It could be irregular or impermanent like couch surfing around friends. It could be sleeping in the back of your car. It could be semi-permanent accommodation in a caravan park cabin with nowhere to go when the tenancy is finished," Mr Butler said.

"All the of the examples above are common on the Fleurieu and reflect inadequacy of the dwelling and a lack of security of tenure in the dwelling."

The Fleurieu Community Foundation is currently supporting homelessness services on the Fleurieu with two annual grants totalling $10,000.

One of these grant goes to Junction Australia and the other South Coast Christian Community Care.

The funds help support underfunded support services such as immediate food assistance, transport costs, sanitary items, small household items and occasional financial assistance or vouchers.

"Many individuals and groups think that providing a house, a room, a shelter, a roof is the important issue that needs addressing to overcome homelessness locally. However, the key is never physical. In the medium and long term the most important service is adequate, professional and well-funded support services," Mr Butler said.

"On the Fleurieu we have two new exciting projects that the Fleurieu Community Foundation are involved in funding.

"Junction Australia now oversee a pilot project, employing an Early Intervention Officer that work with families and individuals who are at risk of homelessness. This new position was the brainchild of the local Homelessness Round table with input from community groups and service providers.

"It attempts to support people before they become homeless and ease some pressure on the service providers by preventing homelessness becoming an issue.

"Although the State Government has the responsibility to fund Homelessness services in the state they have declined to fund this new pilot project. Consequently the project is jointly funded by the Fleurieu Community Foundation and the Wyatt Trust for two years to the tune of $90,000 per annum.

"The other exciting project is the launch of a new financial capacity building program.

"Called 'Seeds of Abundance' this program will be delivered in Goolwa in October followed by other venues across the Fleurieu. The program is intended to be a pilot program aimed at assisting participants who have experienced financial hardship to set and action SMART financial goals and plan for their future."

The Fleurieu Community Foundation have been instrumental in facilitating this community tailored financial capacity building program, that is designed to address entrenched issues of financial capability, inclusion and economic equality in the Fleurieu Peninsula.

The Program will assist participants to set and action financial goals, with a focus on building personal agency and well-being. Again it is an early intervention program to prevent homelessness becoming an issue.

The Fleurieu Community Foundation received funding from the Ecstra Foundation to develop and provide the program. Ecstra works as part of the National Financial Capability Strategy led by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Initial funding, provided through the Community Benefit Payments scheme.

Junction Australia currently provides a Homelessness service here on the Fleurieu. Based in Goolwa they do an enormous job dealing with people who have unexpectedly become homeless. Emergency support services provided by groups like South Coast Christian Community Care help to address the gap that there can sometimes be with an immediate first response.

Junction Australia CEO Maria Palumbo said homelessness is a "wicked problem".

"It affects communities across the world - our Fleurieu Peninsula is no exception. Housing affordability is the issue across the board. Put simply, there aren't enough suitable homes for people that are not a transitional or short-term, places where people can re-establish themselves," Ms Palumbo said.

"We have families who become homeless because they lose jobs, cannot afford rent and they are simply trying to get into the rental market. Many of these people have never sought our help before - a year ago, they never imagined they would be in this position."

At Junction they have provided homelessness services to around 300 people across the Fleurieu over the last 12 months.

"Homelessness is not a symptom, it's an outcome and making assumptions is the worst thing we can do. Listening and learning more about the factors that lead to homelessness - whether that be family breakdowns, abuse, unemployment or housing affordability - is critical to how we respond," Ms Palumbo said..

"The good news is the best solutions to homelessness are usually local ones. There are many organisations working hard to support our homeless in the community and make a real, positive impact.

"Chat with these agencies about how you could donate your time to assist. This might mean volunteering on the front line, fundraising or offering your expertise in an honorary role.

"Advocacy is also imperative. Share posts on social media and raise awareness about homelessness and housing affordability through your networks. If you are a property manager or a landlord with a rental opportunity, we'd love to have a chat with you about our Staying Home in the Fleurieu program."

Junction provides community housing for around 255 people across the Fleruieu - from Strathalbyn, Goolwa, Port Elliot and Victor Harbor across to Kangaroo Island.

"We also provide homelessness services including assisting people to find emergency accommodation and crisis support as well as specific domestic violence services for women and children.

"Ultimately, we work for positive long term change for people - so we are supporting them to turn their lives around not just for a night, but for good. This means working with them to help them find long term, affordable stable housing whether it is through properties we manage or through other agencies or private rental.

We also run two Community Centres at Hackham and on Kangaroo Island which are hubs of support to help people make connections with others and improve their circumstances. It's about helping South Australians not just to survive but to thrive in life."

This story Building a better homelessness system for SA first appeared on The Times.