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Listening: A Path to Solving the Housing Crisis

The ongoing housing crisis in Tasmania has left an increasing number of individuals and families without a safe and affordable place to call home.

The profound disruption associated with homelessness is a barrier to better health, training, education and employment.

There’s no denying we need to do more to help vulnerable Tasmanians.

We believe this crisis which excludes increasingly large pockets of our community from a safe and affordable place to call home, can be solved.

The way to solve it is by listening.

The situation has reached a critical point evidenced by the overwhelming number of enquiries (128,243 in the last three years) received by Colony 47’s Housing Connect Front Door in southern Tasmania.

These enquiries range from people asking for advice, financial assistance for bond (927 households 2022/23) or rent (517 households 2022/23), to immediate crisis intervention for people without a safe place to stay that night (821 people in 2022/23).

A review of Housing Connect by Homes Tasmania began in 2018, and reforms were recommended to shape how the service would look into the future.

It recommended maintaining the current regional approach in providing Front Door services in the North, North West and the South in recognition of each region’s unique and distinct needs.

Maintaining a regional focus is critical to reduce disruption and maintain diversity in the workforce, so providers can continue to listen and provide the best support to the most vulnerable people in our community.

It also recommended building specialist support aimed at children and young people.  No child or young person deserves to be homeless but data forecasts a 26 per cent increase in homelessness for 12 – 24-year-olds over the next 10 years.  There is currently no overarching strategy to respond to the ever-increasing issue of children and young people who are at risk of homelessness.

Following the pandemic in 2020, things only got worse for people of all ages experiencing homelessness.

Connections to employment, services and the community became more tenuous.

This disruption to our lives did, however, provide opportunities to find ways to do things better while waiting for the implementation of reform.

To understand the challenges faced by individuals experiencing homelessness, it is essential to listen to their stories and perspectives.

These people are the experts, having lived through the hardships and obstacles associated with homelessness on a daily basis.

We can solve this crisis by listening to the people who experience evictions, unaffordable rents, unsafe homes, inability to buy food or pay for medical needs, uncertainty, unending wait times, exclusion from education and jobs and everything else that goes with the experiences of homelessness.

By acknowledging their expertise and actively involving them in decision-making processes, we can gain valuable insights into what works, and what doesn’t.

By leveraging technology, in March 2020, Colony 47’s Housing Connect successfully developed online consent forms, enabling people to access assistance remotely.

This innovative step significantly reduced the need for in-person visits and improved efficiency by eliminating delays associated with paper-based processes.

Colony 47 recognised the need to balance the administrative aspects of managing applications for public and community housing with providing intensive support for those in crisis situations.

In July 2022, we pivoted to introduce Applications Administrators, skilled in administration, attention to detail and empathy, allowing us to focus on administrative tasks while ensuring efficient handling of application updates.

This strategic move enhanced the overall effectiveness of the service by directing people to where they needed to go so we could focus more of our time on the people that need our help.

In line with the changing landscape, we also implemented an internet-based phone system, providing our workforce with the flexibility to work from various locations.

By harnessing real-time monitoring and alert systems, Colony 47 further optimised its ability to address urgent needs promptly for Housing Connect clients.

By actively listening to their concerns, Colony 47’s Housing Connect front door has provided a beacon of hope for those in need.

Even when immediate solutions may not be possible, the act of being heard and understood can empower individuals to take the necessary steps towards a better future.

Solving the housing crisis in our state requires a collaborative and inclusive approach.

By prioritising the voices and experiences of those directly affected, organisations like Colony 47 and its Housing Connect service gain crucial insights and perspectives.

Empowering individuals and involving them in decision-making ensures that solutions are tailored to meet their needs.

We’re calling on the State Government to ensure the Housing Reform strategies are undertaken in a way that makes a long-term and lasting difference to this wicked problem.

But to succeed, we need to make sure we include the people who matter most in all our decisions to solve this crisis together.

CEO, Dianne Underwood.

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