Identifying older Aussies at risk of homelessness

A new AHURI report investigates the issues affecting older Australians who are experiencing or facing homelessness.

The research, An effective homelessness services system for older Australians identified three broad groups of older Australians who become homeless: those with conventional housing histories who experience a financial or other ‘shock’ late in life, such as eviction from rental housing, the death of a spouse, or a decline in their health; those who had experienced long-term social exclusion and had previously experienced homelessness; and people with transient work and housing histories.

One of the findings was a recommendation to expand the Assistance with Care and Housing program (ACH) as a simple first step to better support this vulnerable group.

Click here to download the report.

December VCAT update

CHIA Vic’s Victorian Civil and Administrative guru Mark Smoljo reports back on the latest VCAT news:

The new Head of the Residential Tenancies Division, Ian Proctor is very keen on improving VCAT processes and making the whole system easier to use for all parties. Improvements underway include:

  • Supreme Court summaries of important cases now being put on the VCAT website
  • a project looking at increasing the use of telephone and video for hearings
  • texts to be sent to tenant respondents at the time of application and again five days before a hearing
  • faster process for renewals of hearings. You no longer have to wait five to six weeks for them to retrieve files out of the archives in Werribee. Hearing waiting times should be the same as for new applications.
  • new information on supported disability accommodation on the VCAT website
  • major project underway to prepare for next year’s changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, including many changes to the RT VCAT Hub. Unfortunately for those of you managing rooming houses, this will mean a further wait until you can use the Hub for rooming house matters. Ian is aware of the issue with rooming houses and hopes it can be addressed later next year.
  • VCAT has a new Koori Engagement Officer – Wendy Harris.
  • a major project is being conducted on increasing the use of email communication by VCAT. They may need to investigate texting as well because many tenants don’t have email addresses.
  • a new purpose-built VCAT venue at Oakleigh is opening in early 2020. It will cover cases currently heard at Moorabbin, and some of the caseload from Frankston and Dandenong. Another new VCAT venue is under construction in Frankston. VCAT is trying to get away from the use of Magistrates Courts.
  • Portland Magistrates Court is closing for VCAT hearings. VCAT is investigating alternatives.

If you have questions about any of these developments  or you are having any issues with VCAT please contact Mark Smoljo on 9654 6077 or on a Monday or Thursday.


WPI calls for Xmas donation

Create new beginnings for women and children with a Festive Season donation! A message from WPI

When Marie, her six month old son, Josh, and 14 year old daughter, Holly, escaped her extremely violent ex-partner, they went into hiding. They were terrified that he would find out where they were, as he had threatened her life on many occasions. The police had given her a phone number to call so she could raise the alarm and get help quickly. He fought Marie for access to their son Josh, who was just a baby. Throughout the court process she was terrified. During this time, she was also moving from place to place, trying to keep her location a secret and care for her traumatised children. Marie desperately needed a safe and secure place to start again and rebuild her life.

After two years of running, Marie found refuge in a Women’s Property Initiatives home. She has lived there for eight years and it is a safe haven that she can rely on. It was eventually determined that it was simply too dangerous for her ex-partner to have any contact with Marie or the children, but to this day she has to hide from her abuser. The courts and police have supported her in her efforts to keep her location a secret, but still she worries that he will find them. Added security measures at her home give her some peace of mind.

Although she carries the physical and emotional scars of that relationship, she has built a new life for herself and Josh and Holly. Josh has autism and she has found him a supportive and inclusive school. Marie has studied to be a classroom integration aid, which has helped her understand more about what he goes through. She works at Josh’s school, helping him and lots of other children. She has created a stable and loving home and he is thriving. So is Holly, who is now an adult and works as a call center manager for an energy provider. In a secure home, Holly was able to complete her education and move on from the trauma.

This is the difference a stable home makes. It provided this family with a new beginning and they grabbed it with both hands. They are living productive lives and contributing to their community.

“My home is my safe place, my sanctuary. Because it is secure, we’ve been able to heal and try to be normal. It has been critical in creating a routine for Josh. He is doing well at school. I love being part of that and giving back by helping other kids like him. When you’ve been through what we have, you never take a safe home for granted. We are the lucky ones,” said Marie.

We provide homes for more than 230 women and children. They have been able to enjoy many happy celebrations in the homes they love. This festive season, make a tax deductible donation that will create new beginnings for women like Marie; women who deserve the safe and permanent homes that lots of us take for granted.

Click here to donate now


Admire a colleague?

Do you know a purpose-driven, positive-change-starting, whirlwind of an individual? Or someone in the social sector whose work you simply love and admire?

Now is your chance to pull them into the spotlight to shine. Help recognise individuals making a positive impact by nominating them for the 2019 Impact 25 Awards.

You can nominate up to two individuals (including yourself). Simply click here, and tell them in 100 words or less who you are nominating and why.

In the five years of this award, we have had the privilege of celebrating motivated, passionate and determined people working for good in our communities. Have a look at the past winners here.

These individuals are leaders and innovators, catalysing change in the social sector. And, even though they are amongst the most selfless of us, everyone likes a little thanks sometimes.

Click here to nominate

turning the sod in Mitcham

Delivering crisis accommodation

Ground has been broken on a project to deliver an eight-unit development in Melbourne’s east designed to support older women at risk of homelessness.

Community Housing Ltd (CHL), Uniting Vic.Tas together with other partners Mountview Uniting Church, Oak Building Group and the Department of Housing and Human Services (DHHS) have celebrated turning-the-sod on the project in Mitcham.

The homes will be located close to public transport and schools to ensure tenants maintain their links to local services and the community.

‘We are pleased to be partnering in this significant project which will provide safe, secure accommodation for older women in housing need. We will bring in our expertise of careful and sensitive design utilising 25 years of experience in designing accommodation for people in highest housing need,’  says Steve Bevington, CHL’s Managing Director.

The Hon. Bronwyn Pike, CEO-designate of Uniting Vic.Tas, says the facility will support women facing homelessness to take control of their lives and transition into sustainable, safe, long-term housing.

‘The numbers of women over 55 years of age requiring homelessness support are underestimated and under-reported,’ Ms Pike says. ‘Mountview House will be a step toward helping address the need for older women’s crisis accommodation in Melbourne’s East.’

The Mountview House facility is nearly two decades in the making. The Victorian Government is contributing more than $2.3 million to the facility’s development as part of its Accommodation for the Homelessness Phase 2 initiative.



How familiar are you with the RTA?

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the most important legislative framework for the Community Housing Sector. If you are new to the sector or need a refresher, this CHIA Vic course will provide you with the basic skills and understanding you require for your day-to-day work.

This training would be suitable for:

  • New housing workers
  • Experienced housing workers that need to know more about the RTA
  • Experienced housing workers or managers who are new to the community sector
  • Managers who need to incorporate RTA procedures into their organisation’s policies and procedures

The full-day session will be held on Wednesday, December 11 from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Click here for details and to book.

Wayss project

Built for good

Ten short-term affordable homes have been built in Cardinia Shire to accommodate women and children for up to two years, who have experienced family violence and are faced with homelessness.

Funded by the Peter and Lyndy White Foundation, the social housing initiative, ‘Built for good‘ is a standout partnership and collaboration between Council, philanthropists, business and local community organisations, and aims to pave the way for stable and secure housing in the area.

The 10 unit housing complex with on-site office, has been purpose built on Council land by local builders Sienna Homes, to respond to the social problems of family violence and the resulting homelessness that is experienced.

The need for social housing across the state has dramatically increased over the last two years, and homelessness is a hidden and significant issue impacting the Cardinia Shire community.

More than 220 people are experiencing homelessness across Cardinia Shire; this has grown by 53% from 2011 to 2016. Each day, on average, the Pakenham Police refer two women to Wayss because of incidents of family violence. Of the people seeking support for social housing in Cardinia Shire, 24.2% is because of family violence, and 92% of all presentations are women.

Managed by local community service organisation Wayss, the housing complex has a mix of single and double storey units, comprising of two, three and four bedrooms. At any one time the complete 26 bedrooms will both ensure women and their children will be safely housed, and supported with wrap-around services provided by Windermere and Wayss, to help them rebuild their lives.

“There is no doubt the ‘Built for Good’ initiative, is a flagship project that can be replicated in other areas of need across Australia,” said Wayss CEO Elizabeth Thomas.

Are you eligible for portable long service leave?

The Victorian Government has introduced portable long service leave to make it fairer and easier for Victorians working in community services, contract cleaning and security to access long service benefits.

From 1 July 2019, Victorians working in those areas can start building up long service benefits as part of the Long Service Benefits Portability Act 2018 

The Portable Long Service Leave Authority provided a presentation to CHIA Vic members at our AGM this week.

Click here to view the presentation.

Chair’s 2019 AGM message – working together

CHIA Vic Chair Roberta Buchanan gave an empassioned speech to the members at our AGM, calling for members to work together for change.

“Welcome everyone. I am very thankful to you for being given the privilege and opportunity to be the Chair of CHIA Vic over the last year.

Fulfilling that role is made easier by the great staff we have at CHIA Vic, and those members in our sector that also volunteer their time and energy to be on the board to support Lesley and the team.

Some of those members are here today and I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for making the time in your busy schedules to participate and contribute in a significant way to CHIA Vic: Trudi Ray, Stephen Morrissey, Jeanette large, Michael Deschepper, Stephen Nash, Bevan Warner, Shane Austin, Terry Burke, Chris Glennen and Haleh Homaei.

I’d like to pay particular acknowledgement to Haleh, Chris and Terry who, for all different reasons, made the personal decision not to renominate for board this incoming year. Thank you all, thank you for your leadership, your time, your commitment. I know I can speak on behalf of the sector and the staff; we are grateful for your contributions, which have made a lasting footprint for CHIA Vic and our sector. I am personally extremely grateful to have been able to serve on the Board with you and soak in your wisdom, passion and vision.

This year we have more nominations for positions that positions themselves. I thank everyone for their expression of interest and those of us who are not elected I know CHIA Vic will make the time to see you and understand how you can still significantly contribute over the next year – we have a lot to do.

Time to reflect

So part of my role today is to reflect on the year gone by and the new year going forward…As we move into December and the close of the year, when we are all feeling a tad weary – but there is  a spark igniting at the thought of some annual leave over the festive period – it really is a poignant time to reflect.

I’d like to share some personal reflection first. It has been a hard year. The challenges our tenants and those people waiting for housing confronts us with: the ever increasing inequitable society that we live in; energy poverty, social exclusion, loneliness, financial hardship for our tenants; the lack of the basic human right and dignity to have a place to call home for those waiting to access our services is confronting and simply unacceptable.

This challenge requires leadership. And it is not leadership at an individual level – it is collective response. Leadership in our organisations to maintain financial viability whilst assisting those most vulnerable people, leadership in supporting our frontline staff who, every day, face increasing challenges in their roles.

Leadership together outside of our organisations. A collective voice, sharing and supporting each other, taking risks together, increasing our transparency to show what we are – a part of a solution to the growth and supply of housing and what we really are – great landlords.

CHIA Vic’s role is to be a vehicle that supports us to do that.

Strategic plan

Our new strategic plan supports this through four new pillars based on Leadership, Capacity, Trust and Strength.

And under those pillars there are just a few of the things Lesley and the team have delivered for, and on behalf of, the sector:

  • Energy efficiency projects, assisting member to tackle energy poverty
  • The RTA Review; voicing the needs of the sector and our tenants
  • Delivering our regular day-to-day services, the RTA and VCAT Helpline, facilitating our many working groups, training and workforce development opportunities.
  • They have built new relationships in government, particularly with DELWP, (and we hear a little later from Michael Lennon, who is the cochair on Ministerial Advisory committee for the planning mechanisms for affordable housing).
  • Lesley and the team have continued to build relationships within the department. Ensuring that new people understand our sector, its history, its capacity, its potential to add and create value.
  • Advocating for growth and responding to issues faced by our organisations and our tenants through submissions to the Royal Commission into Mental health, Inclusionary zoning, THM review, RTA review; making sure we are represented at various groups – VHR leadership, Community Services Industry planning, VCOSS peaks and state-wide network are only just a few.

So Lesley, Jess, Mary, Holly and Kate (who has brought us into the digital age with a fabulous online annual report) and Steve, thank you for your hard work, your dedication, your commitment and passion to make Victoria a more equitable society through the work that you do to support the community housing sector.

Sponsor support key

All of this is, of course, made possible through our major sponsors, DHHS, Lord Mayors Charitable Trust, Moores, Bank Australia, David Cherry, Mechfield, Acacia.

So, the year ahead. We still have many challenges to break through. None more that the increasing need for Aboriginal people to access social housing. We will hear form Darren Smith form Aboriginal Housing Victoria today about this challenge and the work CHIA Vic is doing in this space to support our sector to respond to the need through developing our capacity to delivery culturally safe services.

Doing more together

So we need to do more together. We need a collective louder voice. We need to take risks. We need to show the power of what we do. CHIA Vic is the vehicle to assist us to do that.

So, if you have a story -tell it.

If you experience a challenge – share it.

If you are doing something great that would benefit all tenants – lead with it.

And if you have the opportunity to showcase your organisation and the community housing sector – do it.

There a lot of work to do and we need to do it together.

Roberta Buchanan
CHIA Vic Chair