Reimagining the service model
Ozanam House celebrated its first anniversary in June 2020, and is recognised as a world-class accommodation facility for its innovative new support services model. Tours of the facility by Australian and international visitors have showcased the new approach which centres on the individual person, with the service provider helping them work towards their life goals.
The on-site integration of health platforms gives staff the capacity to quickly bridge the gap of healthcare services often needed. Shortening the intervention time is critically important and can lessen the severity of early onset ageing in the homeless population.
Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation was the first philanthropic funder of the redevelopment project, providing a grant of $600,000 in 2015. VincentCare’s Chief Executive Officer Quinn Pawson says that “The Foundation was an early adopter to our contemporary thinking and at the time we really needed these early adopters to build confidence in the project.
“The Foundation’s support helped us to reimagine early crisis accommodation and promote the dignity and privacy required for each person’s recovery. This meant thinking about facilities that would promote and support recovery, which included moving away from communal to private areas such as bathrooms. We were also grateful for the Foundation’s capacity to promote the project among the philanthropic community.”
Changing the mindset around homelessness
Quinn Pawson says that Ozanam House is now leading the way for supported accommodation services, as innovation was not only applied to its building design but also in its model of service.
First opened in 1953 by The Society of St Vincent de Paul, Ozanam House was well known as a night shelter providing emergency short-term accommodation for men experiencing homelessness. It has been one of Melbourne’s longest established accommodation services and over the decades has undergone renovations and upgrades as it responded to changing service demands and models of support.
“The history of homeless support services as night shelters, comes from a very traditional institutional mindset and the old charity model of thinking. We have developed our new services to be very person-centred, that consider where the person is on their homelessness journey and then responding to their needs with the appropriate care.
“When designing Ozanam House, we explored what a recovery model of service would look like for our clients and then thought about how we could shape the design to support this type of model. We thought about the facilities that would promote recovery and support the practice, it was certainly an incredible opportunity for us to be able to do this.”
At each stage of the accommodation service, clients are matched to the facility and are provided care that best responds to their issues. From rapid response accommodation for people who have been sleeping rough through to longer term accommodation for those who have been experiencing homelessness long-term, there are wrap-around care and support services to meet the needs of every person seeking help.
“We work to find meaning in our residents’ story and as a service provider it is our job to help them towards their life goals, whatever that represents to them and help to restore their dignity. We then mobilise the resources they need to progress their own life goals which is part of our homelessness recovery model.”
VincentCare worked with their stakeholders to emphasise the potential that the proposed new homelessness recovery model would deliver for clients.
“It was partly an education process that we undertook with our stakeholders, but once people understood the homelessness recovery model and that we were creating opportunities to restore dignity to that person, it was completely embraced.”
Although the new Ozanam House has been applauded by the wider community as symbolising the future for homeless services, there were some people who believed the facility was ‘too flash’.
“These people reflect the thinking of the old charity model and that homelessness is a choice. Our response was to ask these people if they would be happy for their friends and family to stay here if they found themselves homeless. By asking this question, we let them come to their own conclusions. The old charity model and community perceptions of homelessness are still our greatest challenges,” added Mr Pawson.
Quinn Pawson credits the early support from Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, as well as its extensive and strong networks of like-minded people, that enabled VincentCare to progress the project to the next stage.
“It would have taken longer to get the project up and running, and it may not have got off the ground without the Foundation. We were very fortunate to receive this early funding.”
VincentCare received significant funding from the Victorian Government and funding from The Society of St Vincent de Paul and Gandel Philanthropy, as well as community fundraising to complete the project.
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has also conducted an initial evaluation as a snapshot of progress for the site to date.
To reduce homelessness further, Mr Pawson says Victoria requires a rapid rate of social housing development, which is currently at three-and-a-half per cent.
“We need at least seven per cent social housing so that residents who have been with us at Ozanam House and have worked through their challenges can move into their own housing.
“We aim to have some of our residents permanently housed within two years, however with the current private rental market and limited social housing, this is a real challenge for us.”
When asked about what success looks like Quinn Pawson recalls a chance meeting with a resident at the MidSumma Festival in March 2020.
“It is about the people. When you have a resident come up to you and tell you that they cannot believe what they have now and say thank you, that is the real impact. I felt humbled as he retold his extraordinary story, and I felt that we had helped to restore this man’s dignity. He had a place to call home for as long as he needed it, where he could invite friends over and feel supported.”