Design image

Homeless Forum Presentation


Tanya Gadiel, CEO Community Services

Parramatta Mission

tanya-gadiel-presentation-3.pdf Opening Powerpoint

Thank you very much, I’m delighted to join you here today.  I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we’re gathered today the Burramudigal of the Durag nation and pay my respects to the elders past and present for their traditional custodianship of the land.

Can I also acknowledge Bishop Anthony Fisher, Otto Henfling, John Acqulina who’s not here anymore but I know that many of you know him and he’s someone who’s worked very hard alongside all of you.  Doctor Ian Jackson and Reverend Derek Yule other presenters and ladies and gentlemen. 

I am delighted to have been invited here today to speak about Parramatta Mission and particularly homelessness in Parramatta and what our organisation is doing about it.  At Parramatta Mission we are essentially providing crisis accommodation and we also look after people who are living with mental illness.  I should probably elaborate on who we are not, from the beginning because we often get mistaken as being part of Mission Australia, we are not, we are a very separate organisation.  Our origins go back to Parramatta itself beginning in 1821 right back to the site just near the Lee Memorial Church; we have a very proud history in the Parramatta area and a history that started pretty much around about the same time as Governor Lachlan Macquarie right here in this place. 

Obviously we’ve got a lot of expansive community programs and that will happen when you’ve been involved with your community for over 190 years, I’ll go into some of those things a little bit later but when we look at Parramatta Mission and our funding, about sixty-four percent of it comes from the Government, thirty-one percent comes from commercial operations and five percent comes from fundraising.  Our vision is a community where all people are included, valued and enabled and our mission is to transform lives and to grow stronger communities.   

These are just some of our seventy programs, you’ll see things that are very familiar up there like Lifeline Western Sydney, the HASI Program that’s part of Parramatta Mission and you may know it under the banner Uniting Care Mental Health.  I look after the other area of Parramatta Mission which is the community services area and I’ll go into that and a lot of the programs a little bit later but essentially our services are focused on people who are facing crisis and people that are homeless or at risk of homelessness and people who are living with mental illness. We are one of the largest providers of community mental health services in New South Wales.  We’ve got 250 staff and over 400 volunteers across the organisation and as you’ve seen before there are about seventy programs delivered in about eighty sites.  My area is the community services and that’s where we start to see the homeless issue in Parramatta and the things that we do to alleviate it.  

First of all I’ll start with the topic of Youth Homelessness. Our youth services began as a crisis accommodation with a place called Parra House and that’s a residential place that provides crisis accommodation for six children at one time it’s a 24 hour, 7 day operation and the kids can come in at pretty much any time of the night.  They can stay there for a maximum of twelve months and we will try to very much provide a very home and stable environment where we do encourage the living skills, the cooking and starting to generate that level of trust, because obviously  when you’re dealing with kids that come from extremely traumatised  backgrounds it’s very hard initially to get their trust and to start working with them but we’ve had very good results and when you start to see the work that happens at Parra House and then they can be transitioned into some of our other properties, into some of our bedsits and also townhouses at Koompartoo which is an Aboriginal word meaning new beginnings.  We can have some of these kids with us for up to a period of four years in which they are able to completely have their lives stabilised and then they can begin to rebuild their own lives. 

Sometimes and I’ve been very fortunate to have been visiting some of the places where we’ve had former residents drop in to say hi and there was a very young girl who first came to our attention when she was about fourteen, she was a young girl who had had over ninety reports to DOCS as a young person growing up. She came into our services and we were able to help her along the way.  She recently had her own baby and had come back to Parra House just to say hello to everybody and express thanks and to show off her newborn child and it was just amazing to see how completely safe she was, because she had then curled up on the lounge with her newborn baby and was just having a bit of a nap, that’s how safe she was and confident, there with the staff and with her newborn baby and I’m pleased to say that we’ve actually worked with another part of a catholic organisation who has provided more long term accommodation for her and her child. 

The next one is the residential induction unit, now that’s not strictly a homelessness issue but it’s something that Parramatta Mission does and it’s part of the Youth Drug Courts Program, I’ll touch on that lightly because it’s a very significant program.  It runs as part of the Youth Drug Courts, it’s pretty much the children who otherwise would be incarcerated who have committed violent crimes under the influence of drugs, this is their last chance to avoid that correctional system without getting that kind of support along the way.  We have our best results when we’ve been able to work with these kids for up to five months, so obviously it’s not strictly homelessness, nonetheless something that Parramatta Mission is incredibly proud to be associated with.   

The women and family and children’s services Thelma Brown Cottages, that’s our domestic violence refuge.  Last year there were fifty-five women who were in that refuge, there are seven units, two bedrooms each and they can accommodate up to six children along with the mothers.  There were fifty-five women there last year and over 103 children. It’s crisis accommodation and we’re able to work with people and again stabilise them and then help them get into that long term housing and then we work with other providers in order to do that.  Alongside that with women’s services we’ve got Kelly’s Cottages also for women, that’s twelve bedsits for single women and they can come from a range of issues whether they themselves have mental health issues or that they have become unemployed.  Again we try to work with people to stabilise them to get them into long term housing, this is essentially crisis accommodation to transitional housing and then we work with other providers or the Department of Housing for their long term housing strategies. 

The other – I’m sort of skipping a little bit because I’ve got my stopwatch going and I know that somebody was saying that they’d like to have more time to ask some questions, so there are some things that we do in Parramatta Mission that are not focused specifically on homelessness but nonetheless are very important and do provide accommodation so I’ll skip those.  One of those is Wesley Apartments that’s located directly opposite the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.   

The other thing that we do is our food services and our food recovery program and Meals Plus, I’ll sort of talk about how this goes into – almost operates as a gateway to a lot of the services that we operate but just to give you a little bit of a snapshot.  We do a food recovery program in conjunction with the Global Property Trust, that’s at the Rouse Hill Town Centre. Last year we collected 13,500 kilograms of food from Rouse Hill and we also got 20,000 kilograms of produce, meat and dairy donated by Woolworths and we’re able to turn that into meals for people living in our crisis accommodation and also through our Meals Plus Program which operates right next to the church in Macquarie Street and that does over forty thousand meals a year directly in Parramatta. Of course our next service is our Men’s Services and that’s Hope Hostel I’ve got some slides to show you about that in a minute and that accommodates – last year 350 men and over 1,100 requests for emergency and overnight accommodation last year. Alongside that we operate with Leigh Transitional Rehabilitation Services as well. 

Now obviously when you look at the issue of homelessness and the many things that contribute to it whether it be a woman and her child who has suffered through domestic violence, whether it’s somebody who has lost their job, whether it’s somebody who has a mental health issue, whether it’s somebody who has a drug and an alcohol problem, you can’t have a one size fits all approach to everything and obviously every issue is going to be complex and extremely varied.  So one of the things that we need to be conscious of in working in this sector is that there is very much an opportunity for so many of us to work together because we all have different areas of expertise and as Rosemary had said before in her presentation, we often miss out on that ability to be able to coordinate and monitor and look after the people who we seek to assist long term because they can come into one service and then are out and we’re all there to help but you know it’s having that continuum which is the most important thing.   There is definitely fertile ground for improvement and I wanted to speak a little bit about one of the things that’s happening in Parramatta and it’s been a very good example of different groups being able to work together and how that’s worked in the past but obviously somebody who’s come from a position within government knowing that there are limited funds from government and now working in this sector, you just really have that strong desire to work with everybody else because there are limited funds.  There’s no need for us all to you know be going up against each other fighting over looking after people because we all can very much work together and there is no need to do it and I’ve been very heartened because I know that there have been some excellent things that have happened in Parramatta over the years and I want to speak specifically about an example on the men’s homelessness issue and the coalition that was formed in 2002.   

There’s a lot of writing up there and I know that I’ve been speaking now for fifteen minutes so I’m very conscious but in a nutshell, this kind of stuff was groundbreaking when it first occurred because in Parramatta you had three different organisations that were providing men’s crisis accommodation.  You had the old Hope Hostel then you had Kendal House and then you had Cardinal Freedman and you had a situation where a person would enter one facility, be there for three months then go to the next one, go to the next one and the cycle would just continue again and again and again and of course everybody knows the issue with homelessness and how you address it long term is to have firstly, a continuum of care and then a case management along the way an entry and an exit along the way to avoid having that cycle of homelessness.  So what happened around about in 2002 was that this coalition had been formed and it was particularly with Parramatta Mission and Mission Australia and St Vincent De Paul who got together to work out how it would operate longer term and that coalition is still in existence today and there’s also been a very strong partnership with a lot of other organisations.  So aside from those three organisations providing the crisis accommodation you’ve now seen everybody else being involved in it, you’ve seen Parramatta Council, obviously DOCS, Centrelink everybody gets involved - everybody’s listed there and you start to see how people began to – well they signed a memorandum of understanding to work together and have continued to work together so that you don’t have the duplication.

Of course now there’s a picture which says how it works and you have, for instance a gateway through Meals Plus and bearing in mind there are 40,000 meals served there a year you can have somebody who has been living in their car in the car park who’s finally been engaged and has started to be able to be cased managed through Meals Plus by our outreach workers and then go into our Hope Hostel where they can be for a period of three months and then they can go onto either Cardinal Freedman Centre where they can be for six months and then onto working with Mission Australia into the Mars Bedsits.  So you’ve got that continuum of care through different organisations all working together nobody fighting over anybody because we’re all there to help and stablising the person over a period of twelve months until they can actually get access to their long term accommodation and then of course during that time maybe get access to employment and you see again, the same kind of thing that we might have the entry way through somebody who’s just come straight out of jail working direct with Probation and Parole and again coming through that same process. 

So that is very much the coordinated approach, it’s a very good approach, one that’s worked very well for – particularly Men’s Services in Parramatta and it’s the kind of thing that we should highlight to the rest of government this is as a community how it’s done and this is how we should do it and I’ve got not a doubt in my mind that as a government and as a new government they will increasingly look towards us as a sector to give them answers as to how it should and could operate in the future and I certainly know that we did do a meeting recently with Jeff Lee and Otto and there were quite a few of us there and Prue Goward came out and spoke to us and this is the kind of thing that we spoke about and the need for collaboration between all of the organisations in the longer term. 

Referring Powerpoint  - This is Hope Hostel I don’t know if any of you would have seen it but it’s – this was opened this year, that was actually one of the last things I got to do as a Member of Parliament, so this is Hope Hostel it’s our men’s crisis accommodation people can be here for up to three months.  This obviously sets a new standard for dealing with homelessness and the Mission was particularly very conscious about wanting to restore hope and dignity to the lives of people who walked through the doors of this place and you can see that that’s what it looked like before I don’t know how many of you had seen the old Hope, it was not very nice this is much nicer.

Referring Powerpoint  -  hat’s the foyer as you first walk in, that’s the dining room and its single room accommodation, it accommodates thirty people there are twenty four - and there’s an intoxicated persons unit as well, as part of that and then there are three apartments as well that are alongside.  So that should be the benchmark on how we deal with crisis accommodation across the state, if I had any kind of wish list about what we lobby governments for across this state is to say that when we have to deal with somebody that is in crisis and homeless people, that this is the standard that we should all aim towards.

Receive our feeds

Did you know that you can receive automatic RSS updates from any page of this website the moment they are updated?