WESTIR Limited attended the Heading Home Evaluation Report Launch at the Springwood Theatre and Community Hub during Homelessness Week in August 2018. The Heading Home Project, led by Wentworth Community Housing (WCH), is a collaboration of community organisations, businesses and individuals who are working towards ending homelessness in the Hawkesbury, Blue Mountains and Nepean Communities.

The Heading Home Evaluation Report, which was conducted by independent consultant Carolyn Quinn, evaluates the project which began in 2016. This is the second report produced on the Heading Home Project, with an introductory report conducted by Judy Spencer in December 2017.

The launch began with an introduction and welcome from Master of Ceremonies, Melissa Grah-McIntosh from WCH. Melissa outlined some of the myths about homelessness, including the belief that people who are homeless choose to be homeless. A Welcome to Country was also presented by Rhiannon Wright, followed by an address by Stephen McIntyre, who is the Chief Executive Officer of WCH. Stephen spoke about the unique position that WCH plays in providing both social and affordable housing and specialist homelessness services for parts of Western Sydney. He highlighted the rising rates of homelessness and housing unaffordability, and the need for projects like Heading Home in harnessing community input to address these wicked problems.

An overview of the Heading Home Evaluation Report was provided by Carolyn Quinn. The aim of the report was to engage and mobilise cross-sector players to collectively lead, develop and implement the project; identify and profile people experiencing homelessness in local communities; increase local knowledge about homelessness; use a Housing First approach to respond to housing and other needs identified; and build community will and support for developing housing solutions to end local homelessness. The report found that the Heading Home project successfully identified people experiencing homelessness, particularly many who had not been previously identified. It also increased awareness in local communities beyond the homelessness service system and engaged new players across government, business and media in contributing to place-based solutions. It also resulted in the housing of 26 individuals and 9 families, with most remaining housed six months later, and many reporting significant improvements to personal wellbeing after being housed.

The overview of the evaluation report was followed by an address from Susan Templeman MP, Federal Member for Macquarie. Susan congratulated WCH on the evaluation process which is crucial to instilling best practice across all stakeholders. She also spoke about the challenges of the region, including the rise of homelessness among older women, and the need to invest in collaborative solutions, affordable housing supply and supportive social infrastructure. The report was then officially launched by Trish Doyle MP, State Member for the Blue Mountains. Trish spoke about her personal experiences of growing up in domestic violence and experiencing homelessness and the need to shift the cultural attitudes towards homelessness in the public sphere. A couple of videos were also shown at the launch, covering the story of Lisa, a former client of WCH, and WCH’s upcoming Garden Flat Expo which will be happening in November 2018.

If you are interested in learning more about the Heading Home Project and its reports, please contact Wentworth Community Housing on (02) 4777 8000.

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