In an article by Journalist Luke Michael in Australia’s Pro Bono online publication, we are introduced to the revamped Ozanam House in Australia…the fruits of taking the time to carefully plan and develop a center for homelessness.
Victorians experiencing homelessness will have access to accommodation, health services, a tech hub, a gym and financial counselling with the opening of a $47 million support center.
VincentCare’s revamped Ozanam House is Australia’s largest accommodation center for rough sleepers, offering 134 rooms and apartments specially designed to support people’s recovery from homelessness.
Quinn Pawson, the CEO of VincentCare, said the opening of the 10-storey center last Friday would transform the response to homelessness in Australia.
“This new approach will allow us to assist more people than ever before,” Pawson said.
“We will support people to make lasting and sustainable changes to their lives, whether that be accessing training and education, reconnecting with family and community, improving their health or finding secure housing.”
The North Melbourne facility will cater for up to 250 people a day, offering health services – including Victoria’s only homelessness-specific dentist – a tech hub with free Wi-Fi and computers, a gym, café, library and amenities such as showers and a laundry.
Case management support and personal and financial counselling will also be provided.
Pawson said VincentCare had spent three years consulting with experts and examining other major homelessness centers around the world before developing its homelessness recovery model and updating its North Melbourne site.
He said an understanding of trauma as both a cause and effect of homelessness underpinned everything VincentCare did.
“Our high-tech single record system means that clients need tell their story only once, rather than being constantly asked to re-live family violence or other trauma when they need our help,” he said.
“Peer support volunteers, who have themselves experienced homelessness, provide reassurance.
“And because we know that recovery is about more than ‘a roof’, our dedicated case workers support people to access whatever assistance and services they want and need, when they want and need them.”
Pawson added that for the first time, Ozanam House will cater for women as well as men.
He vowed the center would also provide a safe and welcoming environment for transgender and other gender and sexually diverse people.
Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith told Pro Bono News the centre would be of great use to the estimated 25,000 Victorians currently experiencing homelessness.
Smith particularly praised VincentCare for expanding its services to cater for women, LGBITQ+ people and those over 55 experiencing long-term homelessness.
“The facility will help Victorians escape homelessness through secure housing and the vital associated support services,” Smith said.
“And it will provide so much more… [to help] residents stay connected with family, friends and support networks, to get back on their feet and get healthy.”
But Smith said vulnerable people desperately needed more long-term options and called on the Victorian government to address the state’s shortage of social housing.
“The government must start making a real investment of 3,000 new units of social housing each year and any investment it makes also needs to be matched by the federal government. We need real, long-term solutions to end homelessness,” she said.
The opening of Ozanam House follows a similar redevelopment of 24/7 crisis accommodation service Frontyard, which unveiled a $9 million four-story centre in the Melbourne CBD last month.