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IRT Foundation launches service linkage pilot for homeless seniors

10 August 2018

This week, National Homeless Persons Week, IRT Foundation is launching a ground breaking service linkage pilot to provide ongoing support for homeless seniors housed under the Assistance with Care and Housing Program (ACH).

“Last year IRT’s Assistance with Care and Housing Coordinator, Gail Puckeridge, delivered 1,982 hours of client-facing support to help house homeless seniors within the Illawarra, assisting an average of one person a week,” said Toby Dawson, IRT Foundation Manager.

“We found that the service did not go far enough in supporting clients to maintain their independence after they had been housed, meaning that sometimes they returned to homelessness,” Mr Dawson said.

Research shows that people who have either been homeless or experienced significant housing stress are more likely to be faced with complex needs like drug or alcohol abuse, mental health, domestic violence, low socioeconomic status and social isolation.

Although community services exist for the treatment of mental health and drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence counselling and financial advice, the homeless cohort is more likely to be at a disadvantage in accessing these services.

“There is currently a gap in service provision between the placing of homeless seniors in appropriate housing, and providing ongoing support to connect them with complimentary services that allow them to regain and maintain their independence,” Mr Dawson said. “IRT Foundation’s service linkage pilot aims to fill that gap.”

Previous experience has taught IRT Foundation that handing over the keys to a property is not sufficient to assist homeless clients to re-integrate into society and maintain their tenancies.

“One client in her 70s who had been living in her car for many years was also faced with the challenges of intellectual disability, illiteracy and a history of domestic violence,” Mr Dawson said.

“Although she wanted to live independently and take control of her finances after moving into her new home, without the support of a service linkage coordinator she struggled to get the help she needed. She has now returned to living in her car with her former partner,” he said.

“Our belief is that an ongoing service linkage program will prevent our clients from slipping back into homelessness, by intervening before their situation reaches crisis point,” Mr Dawson said.

The IRT Foundation boasts many success stories of homeless seniors who now have a secure roof over their heads, but they want to make sure that every client is given the best possible chance of staying there.

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