The situation was having a negative impact on everyone involved, with the physical and mental health of those living in the car park deteriorating and the community being denied access to the public car park and toilet.
Recognising the traditional outreach approach was not working, Wentworth explored successful examples of large groups of people being rehoused and public space returned the community. We came across the work of Iain de Jong, who has led successful projects in the U.S. and Canada to end much larger tent cities – and adapted his processes to meet our needs.
At Wentworth’s request, the Member for Penrith convened a cross-agency meeting bringing together key service providers and stakeholders working with homeless people in the region. Wentworth agreed to be the backbone organisation, responsible for meeting with each agency to explore its role, draw on its strengths and identify key tasks and timeframes.
Participating agencies included Platform Youth Services, Penrith City Council, the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) Housing, Christ Mission Possible (CMP), the NSW Police Force and Homelessness NSW. Once the group was established, we worked collaboratively to provide support and housing solutions to each of the people sleeping rough in the car park.
The project was a success with only two people still living at the site at completion. Almost half the people sleeping rough in the car park accepted support to be rehoused or reconnect with family inside the project’s timeframe. Those who reconnected with family were offered non-housing assistance in the form of long-distance train tickets and assistance with moving.
The project saw Wentworth working with the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), the Police, Mental Health, Platform Youth Services and local charity, Hawkesbury Helping Hands. Homelessness NSW were also involved in an observing role.
Of the 33 names on the list at the beginning of the project, only five remained in residence on the final council clean-up day. 17 people were successfully housed by Wentworth and DCJ.
The success of the project meant several public spaces in the Windsor area could be returned to the community including Macquarie Park, the Grandstand, South Creek and the boat ramp.