New data shows concerning cost to health system of people experiencing homelessness
Monday, 14h November 2016 - Homelessness across Penrith, the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury cost the health system almost $250,000 over the last six months, the Heading Home - Ending Homelessness Here project has found as part of its registry week that took place from 1-3 November.
The project, led by Wentworth Community Housing in partnership with Platform Youth Services, Mission Australia (Kingswood) and supported by the Mercy Foundation, surveyed 78 individuals and families. It found that of the 66 individuals surveyed, 63 had one or more interactions with emergency departments, ambulance transport and hospitalisation over that time.
Wentworth Community Housing Chief Executive Officer, Stephen McIntyre, said the survey findings which are being released at community briefings across the three LGAs showed not only the significant social and health challenges of homelessness, but the economic cost to the community. “The cost of $250,000 to the health system over the last six months, relates to the people we surveyed. If we also take into account the people we found but couldn’t survey, this cost will be significantly greater.
“Community collaboration on housing solutions and support for people experiencing homelessness will reduce this financial burden on the health system, and most importantly be successful in ending homelessness in our region. As research from The University of Queensland shows, the cost to government of homelessness is greater than the cost of providing permanent supportive housing, and ending homelessness,” said Mr McIntyre.
“A concerning finding from the survey is that over a third of individuals experiencing homelessness in our community have serious medical conditions, combined with mental health, and drug and alcohol issues.
“The Heading Home project has identified the challenges facing people experiencing homelessness, and now we will be calling on the broader community, from business owners to community service providers to help us find solutions. In particular we will be working towards a Housing First solution, with wrap-around support services for those who need it.”
Heading Home enlisted 75 community and staff volunteers to find, talk to and survey people experiencing homelessness in over 70 locations across the region including cars, parks, riverbanks, grandstands, drop-in centres, train stations, refuges, stairwells, carparks and bushland.
The specialist survey tool called a Service Prioritisation Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) assessed the needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and identified which people are the highest priority.
Key VI-SPDAT findings:
Wentworth Community Housing celebrated its 20th anniversary at Penrith RSL last week, with the Member for Penrith the Hon Stuart Ayres MP, tenants, partners and community representatives.
In addressing the 20th anniversary gathering, CEO, Stephen McIntyre reflected on Wentworth’s deep connection to the community. “Wentworth takes great pride in its depth of relationship with local communities, and the strength of its partnerships.
“It is these special connections and the services we provide that makes Wentworth unique. We are one of a handful of organisations in New South Wales who provide specialist homelessness services in addition to social and affordable housing. This means we are actively involved in providing a full range of services, across the spectrum of housing need.”
Chairperson Keith Bryant cuts the cake with tenant Sonya Phillips.
Member for Penrith the Hon. Stuart Ayres MP makes a pledge to Heading Home.
Wentworth CEO Stephen McIntyre.
Guests at Wentworth's 20th Anniversary Celebrations.
Unused land which long sat vacant alongside the Rouse Hill Town Centre in The Hills Shire has been renewed and transformed into affordable housing for about 50 residents with the opening today of Wentworth Community Housing’s apartments.
A first for Wentworth Community Housing in The Hills Shire, the 28 unit property which provides rents to occupants up to 75 per cent the local market rate is nearing full occupancy, and houses tenants who are employed across a wide range of sectors including retail, financial and community services.
Wentworth Chief Executive Officer, Stephen McIntyre, said the Rouse Hill affordable housing apartments will ease rental pressure on tenants and provide much-needed affordable accommodation close to shopping, community services and transport. “The abundance of applications received from prospective tenants highlights the need for affordable housing in The Hills District where rents are approximately 30-60 per cent higher than the adjacent Blacktown LGA.
“Increasing the supply of affordable housing for those who need it and providing strong community connections are key aspects of our work. This is why in addition to the affordability of the housing and its location, it’s important the design of the apartments promote resident interaction and community engagement. Achieving these three elements has been central to making Rouse Hill a flagship affordable housing project for Wentworth,” said Mr McIntyre.
The Rouse Hill project has been a collaboration between Wentworth and the New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments with the following contributions -
Federal Member for Mitchell, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, said collaborative efforts between governments, the community and private sectors are key to helping solve issues of affordable housing supply. “It’s a key priority for the Commonwealth Government to improve access to suitable social and affordable housing. I am pleased this successful collaboration led by Wentworth has taken place in the electorate of Mitchell, with long-term social and economic benefits for our community.”
The State Member for Castle Hill, Ray Williams MP, said Wentworth’s affordable housing apartments are in-line with what the New South Wales Government is trying to achieve in the supply of modern affordable housing. “The New South Wales Government is committed to housing solutions for people struggling in the housing market, including those who need support through affordable housing. In addition, it’s pleasing that through our voluntary planning agreement with Lend Lease we were able to supply an excellent piece of land in close proximity to key services and transport for this important development.”
Media enquiries: Melissa Grah-Mcintosh 0439 790 491
Ray Williams, NSW State Member for Castle Hill and Yvonne Keane, Hills Shire Coucil Mayor with Stephen McIntyre, Wentworth Chief Executive Officer.
Federal Member for Mitchell, The Hon Alex Hawke MP with tenant Anne Fulford.
Wentworth Community Housing and it's partner Platform Youth Services were proud to sponsor the National Foyer Conference held in Sydney last week. Youth Foyers provide integrated learning and accommodation for young people experiencing homelessness. This enables them to develop the skills to lead fulfilling and independent lives. Wentworth and Platform are working together with strategic advisor, Brotherhood of St Laurence, with the aim of establishing a Youth Foyer in Western Sydney.
Keith Bryant, Chairman of leading community organisation and housing provider, Wentworth Community Housing, has called on Federal and State Governments to address the increasingly urgent need for a national housing policy to ensure we have the right mix of housing to meet the needs of our growing population.
Wentworth has asked that governments rethink the reliance they have on “market forces” as the solution to Australia’s housing mix and shortage. At the same time, it questioned the current process that puts too much emphasis on councils and developers to meet the increasing demand and urged governments to set clear policy objectives and measurable outcomes.
Speaking at the Wentworth Community Housing AGM Mr Bryant said, “The housing market as it currently exists is broken. We have seen dramatic reductions in home ownership for the under 35s. There is also an alarming increase in the number of households paying more than 50% of their incomes to cover rent or mortgages.”
“Despite some good support from the NSW Government to address the issues of affordable and social housing the reality is that house and land prices in major cities are rising faster than the increases in wages. A recent Housing Industry Association Report shows a 50% increase in Sydney house prices since 2012.”
“Wentworth sees firsthand the effect of the significant undersupply of housing that is affordable to thousands of families – and by affordable we mean renting as much as buying. If the supply and pricing issues are not addressed as a matter of urgency, we expect to see more and more families pushed to the margins at a great cost to our communities.”
“Not getting housing right for those who are less well-off flows on to Australia’s health and welfare systems. With housing now reaching 8-9 times average annual incomes, there is a growing gap in our communities.
“Escalating housing prices flow all the way down the line as people who want to buy stay in the rental market, allowing landlords to keep rents high; locking out people on low-incomes. All they want ls secure accommodation at a price they can afford.”
“Dealing daily with the increasing demand for social housing Wentworth is at the coalface for all the issues that arise. We need to develop a more realistic approach to the creation of affordable housing, encourage appropriately priced land releases and lower the costs in the private rental sector.”
“We recognise there is not a “one hat fits all” solution. However, a comprehensive national housing policy would go a long way to solving some of these issues.”
His comments were echoed by Mr Scott Langford, Chairman of PowerHousing Australia. Mr Langford was in Cranebrook as the guest speaker at Wentworth’s AGM.
Mr Langford commented that "community housing providers such as Wentworth have a significant role to play in delivering housing outcomes working in partnership with the private sector and government. However, a cohesive strategy from all levels of government that commits policy and funding initiatives over the long term is the essential. We need to build a national housing policy that can, and should be, the backbone of our economy and the foundation of an Australian society."
On behalf of the Board of Wentworth Community Housing, I would like to announce the appointment of Mr Stephen McIntyre as our new CEO.
Given Stephen’s substantial background in senior roles in government policy and infrastructure the Board is delighted that it was able to secure such a strong candidate to fill Nick Sabel’s shoes. The Board is delighted that Stephen will be joining Wentworth and believes he has the right qualities to lead Wentworth into a new era. Stephen brings directly relevant experience as a Deputy Director-General at the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure and as an Executive Director at Housing NSW, along with board sub-committee experience with Yarra Community Housing. The Board also believes he has the personal qualities and vision to ensure that Wentworth continues grow and benefit from the dynamic development occurring in the affordable and social housing sectors in NSW and Australia.
Stephen will be inheriting an organisation that is in very good shape and has been performing well. If Wentworth is to continue to grow, the organisation has to deal with significant and complex changes across all of its services. The continuous drive by governments to reduce homelessness, provide more appropriate support services and improve the supply of affordable and social housing creates opportunities that will see Wentworth continue to improve the services it can offer local communities in Western and North Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
On behalf of the Board and staff of Wentworth I would like to congratulate and thank Mr Nick Sabel for his successful tenure over the past 17 years as the CEO. Nick’s stewardship has seen Wentworth grow from 4 staff and 200 houses to an organisation that employs more than 60 people and manages over 2,000 properties.
On the way he has shepherded the organisation through major changes and seen it develop a strong collaborative relationship across the region. Nick hands over the fourth largest Tier 1 Community Housing Provider in NSW that is in robust shape and ready to continue to play an integral role in providing innovative housing and services for those in need. The Board thanks him for his leadership and wishes him the very best for the future.
On Friday 12 June, Mr Mario Falcone and Mr Vince Falcone, Directors of the Red Cow presented CEO Nick Sabel with a cheque for $50,000 to support Wentworth’s work to end homelessness in our community.
The special event was hosted by the Red Cow, Penrith’s iconic hotel and featured canapés and a selection of local draught, wines and non-alcoholic beverages showcasing The Red Cow’s Fat Cow kitchen.
The Red Cow is an active local business leader in the Penrith community and proud to support local community initiatives and solutions to local problems.
Councillor Greg Davies of Penrith City Council welcomed guests including Board Members Brodie Druett and Cameron Lamb, Councillor John Thain and guests from West Connect domestic violence service, Platform youth service, FaCS representatives and Council staff. Councillor Davies outlined the growing problem of homelessness in our community. Council actively brings together community organisations and leading local business such as the Red Cow to end homelessness.
CEO Nick Sabel puts it plainly “homelessness is simply unacceptable in a country like Australia.”
Yet since November last year our services have assisted almost 500 people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness – that’s in just over 7 months. Other specialist homelessness services in the area report similarly high levels of demand.
This generous donation will make a real difference. We will be able to provide
A highlight of the event was Wentworth Support Worker Matt Mills in conversation with David and Alan Van Der Baan. David and Alan became homeless last year and spent 2 months living under the bridge at Windsor. Special thanks go to David and Alan for sharing their journey from homelessness to home. It was great to see how life can turn around – starting with a safe home.
We’re looking forward to staying in touch with the Red Cow team - Tony, Vince and Group Manager Operations Nicko Ivanov about how these funds are being put to work and the difference it is making in peoples lives. Thankyou to the Red Cow!
After 17 years as CEO, Nick Sabel will be leaving Wentworth Community Housing. This has not been an easy decision, however Nick feels it is time for another individual to bring a fresh perspective to the leadership of Wentworth as it moves into the next phase.
Under Nick’s leadership, Wentworth has become one of the largest community housing organisations in NSW with over 2000 properties under management. We are a registered Tier 1 Community Housing Provider, the highest category attainable, within the National Regulatory System. We have ventured into property development for both affordable and social housing tenants with 150 new units underway in Penrith, St Mary’s, Springwood and Rouse Hill. We have established award winning collaborative programs to address homelessness in our region and are leading or playing a major support role in four programs under the State Government’s Going Home Staying Home reforms. Much credit for these achievements goes to Nick. His sustained leadership, vision and commitment have guided Wentworth through these many milestones.
Wentworth has commenced recruitment for Nick’s successor. Nick will remain in his role until a new CEO is appointed to ensure a smooth transition for Wentworth and the team.
We are pleased to announce that Wentworth has been registered as a Tier 1 Community Housing Provider in the new National Regulatory System for Community Housing.
Click here for more information about the National Regulatory System.
The NSW Land and Housing Corporation (NSW LAHC) has amended its policy to state that swimming pools, including inflatable or portable pools, are no longer approved in properties owned by NSW LAHC. The one exception is “above ground permanent swimming pools” approved by NSW LAHC in exceptional circumstances.
From 29 October 2013 all NSW swimming pools must be registered. For more information, or to register swimming pools free of charge, visit www.swimmingpoolregister.nsw.gov.au.