At our Pulse Meeting on 8 May participants had the chance to learn about, and discuss, the topics of ERConnect and the Common Ground supported housing model.
After a round of introductions from the whole room, Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) representatives Leela James and Jaimie Castilla Riasco presented on ERConnect. They gave a short demonstration of this statewide online directory, asking all participants to check it out on their own devices. ERConnect started with emergency relief but has broadened to include accommodation, rent assistance, and food vouchers. It is always up-to-date because service providers have the capacity to update their own entries.
The ERConnect website, which is in development, can be easily searched by people in need of services and by services who are looking to refer people.
ERConnect uses location services on mobile devices and a “how may I help you?” approach. By inputting what someone is looking for (i.e. food services) the device identifies the location and will list those services best providing what an individual is looking for.
The website depends on service organisations making sure their detail is continuously updated, with traffic to the site registering 35,000 visitors a year. The analytics captured by the website is “extraordinary”, with the understanding that in the future it will be able to identify gaps and trends.
Rotary member Ken Mullen and Kathleen Gregory, CEO of Foundation Housing, led interested participants on an introduction through the Common Ground supported housing model.
Amazingly, Perth and Darwin are the only two Australian cities which don’t have a Common Ground housing model currently in place. Common Ground is a supported housing model typically with 100 to 120 units. The model is not solely for people experiencing homelessness, but usually includes around 50% low cost rentals. Common Ground facilitates a supportive environment with teams of counsellors, case managers, medical services and security on site.
In other cities the Common Ground model has been established for some time. Both Ken and Kathleen have seen evidence that the model works with strong benefits for the individuals housed within them, particularly improvements in health. The discussion at the Pulse Meeting dived into some aspects of the design to suit a WA context and next steps for seeing this project become a reality in Perth.