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Crisis Help Network: Melbourne Homeless Services

Crisis Help Network: Melbourne Homeless Services

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Homelessness Advocacy Service (VIC)

Do you have a problem with a Government funded Homelessness support and accommodation service such as Crisis Accommodation, THMs or a Rooming House service? HAS will inform you of your rights and how to make a complaint.

Free Call 1800 066 256

Homelessness Advocacy Service

On the 1st January 2005 the Homelessness Advocacy Service (HAS) opened for business, a new service, born out of the Victorian Governments Homelessness Strategy and the development of a broader quality framework for the service system aimed at securing and protecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness. .

All complaints raised through the Homelessness Advocacy Service are recorded utilizing the DHS’ Integrated Complaints Management processes. This transparency ensures that all complaints are responded to in a consistent, fair and timely manner and that trends and developments in complaints are identified and addressed where systemic advocacy or change is required. The Integrated Strengthened Complaints Management Strategy offer redress to people who have had their rights breached through effective complaints resolution mechanisms.

Complaints raised through the Homelessness Advocacy Service are measured against the Homelessness Assistance Service Standards. These standards were developed through extensive consultation with people who have experienced homelessness, community based service providers and key stakeholders. The Victorian Homelessness Assistance Service Standards set out standards of good practice for service delivery in the homelessness assistance sector. The standards and a process for assisting services to implement them have been designed to improve the service system’s transparency, consistency and responsiveness in addressing the needs of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The overall aim is to improve outcomes for people and communities served.

The Homelessness Advocacy Service promotes the OoH Consumer Charter to homelessness service users and encourage people who feel that their rights under the charter have been breached they can seek the assistance of the Homelessness Advocacy Service and/or lodge a formal complaint.

Homelessness organizations will be expected to demonstrate evidence of a commitment to the 11 rights articulated in the charter. The Charter will be embedded in the Homelessness Assistance Service Standards and in future homelessness services’ funding will be tied to compliance with these standards.

It is worthwhile looking at the Homelessness Advocacy Service in a historical context and, to acknowledge the ongoing commitment to upholding human rights since the establishment of the Support and Accommodation Rights Service 11 years ago. SARS was established by the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) to actively and positively contribute to processes and actions that seek to improve the human rights of homeless people.

The Support and Accommodation Rights Service was underpinned by the belief that all human beings are entitled to a basic suite of inalienable human rights, and that implicit power imbalances exist within various structures in society including the Homelessness Service System (HSS). Advocacy was identified as a means of addressing the imbalance between service providers and service users in the Homelessness Service System and this constituted the bulk of the Support and Accommodation Rights Service work. While some service user rights are articulated within the SAAP Act 1994 (Cth) as well as the various International Treaties to which Australia is a signatory, it had been the programs experience over ten years of operation, that while many SAAP services work from a rights-based platform, there are still consistent and routine breaches of service user rights within the Homelessness Service System. The Homelessness Advocacy Service is an expanded program of its predecessor, the Support and Accommodation Rights Service.

The current work of the Homelessness Advocacy Service is separated into three broad areas –individual advocacy, secondary consultation and training and the Peer Education Support Program.

Advocacy
The Homelessness Advocacy Service provides state-wide advocacy to people who have a complaint with any of the 300 + Office of Housing (OoH) funded homelessness service in Victoria including SAAP, THM, OoH funded Rooming House and other homelessness services. Advocacy involves individual support to people who are seeking to make complaints regarding service provision. These complaints are measured by the services’ compliance with the Homelessness Assistance Service Standards, the service’s funding and service agreement, Commonwealth and State legislation such as the SAAP ACT 1994, the Equal Opportunity ACT 1984.

Recurring issues raised through complaints by people accessing the Homelessness Advocacy Service included:
• Lack of support and appropriate referral
• Unfair eviction with no exit options
• Disempowerment over choices and decision making
• Discrimination
• Breach of privacy
and confidentiality
• Not being treated with dignity and respect
• Service exclusion
• Feeling unsafe in accommodation
• Inappropriate accommodation
• Sexual and other forms of harassment
• A lack of and/or access to culturally appropriate information


Some of the achievements of the Homelessness Advocacy Service in 2004/2005

• The Homelessness Advocacy Service has relocated to the adjoining building to accommodate the expansion of the program. A new upgraded telephone system with increased lines has been installed, and all computers have been upgraded.
• Training provided: State-wide SAAP Induction Training, Barwon South West Homelessness Network Combined Regional Forum, Ozanam House, Frontyard Youth Services, Elizabeth Hoffman House, Office of Housing Integrated Complaints Management State-wide training x 10 sessions. OoH Homelessness Assistance Service Standards x10 sessions.
• Outreach: Regular outreach at Frontyard Youth Services, Ozanam House and funded Rooming Houses in partnership with the Tenants Union of Victoria Rooming House Service.
• Information dissemination regarding the Homelessness Advocacy Service: Multiple language promotional materials. Languages printed: Arabic, Macedonian, Cambodian, Serbian, Turkish, Chinese, Somali, Vietnamese, Croatian and Spanish. Production of poster has involved consumer collaboration. Business cards, postcards, and updated website. Various articles in Parity magazine.
• The Homelessness Advocacy Service works collaboratively with the Homeless Persons Association and have acted as an agent in organizing office space for the Homeless Person Association within the Council to Homeless Persons building.
• State wide secondary consultation to Services regarding internal Grievance Procedures and Policies.

Currently, the staff of HAS consists of Annie Paliwal, Coordinator, Michala Wright, Peer Education Support Coordinator/Advocate, Angela Kyriakopoulos, Advocate.

Service users wishing to access HAS free call 1800 066 256

To visit: 34 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 3065.

Email: has@chp.org.au
Admin: 03 9419 8529
Fax: 03 9419 7445

 
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