On September 4, 2014 the MLCF team attended the Penrith Homelessness Summit at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre.
Several organisations and agencies from across Greater Penrith and the Blue Mountains attended to discuss our immediate issues and long term goals in assisting our homeless and at risk community. Also in attendance were Mayor and Councillor Ross Fowler OAM, The Hon. Stuart Ayres, MP, The Hon. Gabrielle Upton, MP, several members of Penrith Council, and Digby Hughes from Homelessness NSW amongst others.
We learned more about the new initiative “Going Home Staying Home” which is a new approach to the delivery of specialist homelessness services. By consolidating Service Providers by area, or issue, they hope to create a “one-stop shop” for people who need assistance, eliminating the need to contact several different agencies and repeating their story over and over again.
There is a large focus on prevention and early intervention for “at risk” people to hopefully assist them before they slide into homelessness. This covers everyone from couch surfing teens to families with low incomes or employment issues. Prevention is always better than cure.
Presentations by Wentworth Community Housing, Platform Youth Accommodation/The Glue Factory, Christ Mission Possible and Wentworth Sydney Community Forum outlined each organisations capabilities and goals, and led to a fantastic discussion between the participants about what we consider the immediate and biggest issues for homelessness in our area (and beyond), and how we think they could be solved.
What was most interesting was that almost all of us – no matter which field we are focused on from rough sleeping to domestic violence to education/employment to counselling – had the same core issues:
1. Lack of affordable permanent housing for those most at risk, or already experiencing homelessness;
2. Lack of awareness of each others’ capabilities, and therefore lack of collaboration, between organisations;
3. Lack of services for those in crisis outside of business hours.
Several new contacts later, we left feeling enthusiastic and empowered. One of the first points of action is for regular forums to occur where local service providers can come together and share their ideas, expertise and collaborate on projects. Hopefully this will happen soon as we can clearly see the positives that will come from this cooperation and communication.
Overall, it was a really positive experience and we are looking forward to working with our newfound like-minded colleagues to assist our patrons however they may need.
Thanks to Penrith City Council for organising and facilitating the event.