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The Alliance gets underway

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Work has begun on implementing the WA community-based 10-year plan to end homelessness in Western Australia. The plan, developed by The Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (Alliance) through extensive consultation over the last eighteen months, and launched in April 2018, is a collaborative response to end homelessness and not just manage it.

The plan received strong interest through its development. It is based on a ‘housing first’ approach which connects people experiencing homelessness with long-term housing as quickly as possible and without preconditions. The WAAEH believes a safe home is a human right and a basic need that must be met. Also underpinning the plan is the voice of people with lived experience of homelessness. The five key strategic principles on which the plan is based are housing; prevention; a strong and co-ordinated response; data, research and targets; and building community capacity. 

The Alliance was successful in attracting funding from Lotterywest towards implementation. The grant was presented to the Alliance by Simone McGurk, Minister for Community Services during Homelessness Awareness Week.

The Alliance advertised for expressions of interest for a core team to work on implementation and the team came together this week. The backbone organisation supporting the WAAEH is Shelter WA. 

At the team’s induction, Alliance members John Berger CEO of St Bartholomew’s House and Debra Zanella CEO of Ruah Community Services, spoke about the early beginnings of the Alliance.

“We never came to sit around a table and say we know how to end (homelessness) this,” said John.

“Early on in our journey we had the opportunity with a wider group of stakeholders to work with a Futurist Sohail Inayatullah, who really challenged our thinking, as we came together to imagine what our society and homelessness would like in 50 years’ time.

Discussions challenged our notion of what is a home and we were encouraged to promote self-reliance and independence.”

The work started in earnest when a commitment was made at the 2017 Social Impact Festival, to look at home, land and place which was the theme of the Festival.

Debra remembers the importance of that moment at the Octagon Theatre.

“We made a public commitment, bit like a marriage really, we stood up the front and made a very public commitment to end homelessness,” she said.

Throughout the Festival several labs were held which included thinking around what could be done around reducing homelessness. The emphasis early on was not to “reinvent the wheel”.

“We wanted to look at proven national and international examples,” said John.

“Collectively we agreed on some targets such as, reducing the amount of time people can be homeless for no more than five nights, which is an enormous feat, but you have to set these targets. We agreed people who experience homelessness should have the opportunity to a life they aspire to and these are written in the 10-year plan, you will see it in the language.”

The document will continue to evolve as the team progresses towards the development of initiatives and deliverables.

“This really is all about changing the system to create an ecosystem that sustainably solves the problem of homelessness,” said John.

It was Debra who outlined the challenge ahead, “We’ve been having these conversations for two and a half years, we are going to keep having these conversations for the next 10 years. There is no point saying to agencies or others that’s wrong, part of the skill of this group will be to ask people to move on from the old ways of thinking, but we are conscious there will be fear and a sense of loss.”

The Alliance is supported by Shelter WA an independent peak body that advocates for social and affordable housing and ending homelessness.

“Shelter WA is pleased to perform the backbone functions for the Alliance,” said CEO Michelle Mackenzie. “The work of the Alliance and the focus on systems change resonates with our core focus. There are great synergies between the work we do and the outcomes we want to achieve.”

The next steps for the team are to establish a framework to deliver the agreed outcomes over this year. These include:

• Establishing a governance framework to facilitate broader engagement and involvement in the plan’s implementation

• Partnering with the community and key agencies to co-design action plans for identified groups most at risk of homelessness and regional areas

• Developing an outcomes framework to better understand and measure the impact of the plan on ending homelessness

• Developing a capital fundraising strategy to increase housing supply

• Developing high impact demonstration projects for delivery in partnership with government and industry

• Building the capacity of government, the community and the community sector to understand and implement best practice including a housing first approach and engagement of people with lived experience

• Driving system change such as a no wrong door approach and stopping institutional exits to homelessness

• Developing a public campaign to raise awareness and shift perception - using events, media and communication strategies to engage

• Updating the 10-year strategy and preparing for the next three years of work

The team will be working on delivering the plan over the next nine months under the guidance of Project Facilitator Claire Stokes a Co-Director of the Social Impact Festival. Claire holds a Master of Business Administration (Social Impact) and a Bachelor of Music (Honours).

“It’s such an honour to be part of the team helping to bring to life the ambitious 10-year strategy to end homelessness in Western Australia,” said Claire. Along with the other team members, I’m really excited to be part of such a high impact initiative. We cannot wait to witness positive changes across the whole system and, most importantly, in the lives of individuals affected by homelessness.”



Steering Committee: Amanda Hunt (CEO, UnitingCareWest) Debra Zanella (CEO, Ruah Community Services), John Berger (CEO, St Bartholomew's House), Kathleen Gregory (CEO Foundation Housing Ltd.), Mark Glasson (Director Services, Anglicare WA), Susan Rooney (CEO, Vinnes WA), Sam Knight (Australian Alliance to End Homelessness Representative) Prof Paul Flatau (Director, Centre for Social Impact UWA) and Katie Stubley (Strategic Design Manager, Centre for Social Impact UWA).

Project Team: Claire Stokes, Kai Schweizer and Katie Liew; Jonathan Shapiera and Kit Scott lived experience advisors; Royceton Hardey social media; and Niall Rhatigan and Elsie Bray capacity building projects.

Backbone Organisation: Shelter WA (Michelle Mackenzie, CEO). 

Project Funding: Lotterywest.


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