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Jon’s story (Assertive Outreach Team)
When Jon met our Homeless Health Service Assertive Outreach Team, he was in soiled clothing and living on a mattress on the street. His Assertive Outreach Team care coordinator kept visiting him on outreach, persistently working to build rapport. He was withdrawn, consistently declining assistance, and untreated schizophrenia was causing him distress. He began presenting to SVH ED and had an involuntary psychiatric admission to Caritas. During his admission, he responded well to treatment, his mood shifted and he started to open up.
After the admission, Jon moved into a supported boarding house. This began well, but he found living with other people with mental illness very challenging, and Jon returned to sleeping rough. Jon's Assertive Outreach Team continued to visit and support him on outreach, providing mental health and physical health care, and also assisted him in accessing his anti-psychotic medication.
A social housing property became available and with intensive support, Jon moved into his own home. Our team assisted him to access the NDIS and Community Mental Health Service in his local area. Even though he is no longer a client of our service, Jon contacts us periodically to tell us how grateful he is for our support and his home, and is proud to be living independently.
It took a long time for Jon to trust us, and we’ve walked alongside him while he confronted many challenges. We have learnt a few lessons from Jon, which have helped us to change our practice for the better. Saying goodbye is bittersweet but opens the door for us to meet new clients.
Kai’s story (Assertive Outreach Team)
Kai is a friendly middle aged gentleman of non-English speaking background. Although he is in Australia legally, he is not eligible for benefits or social housing. As a result of this he lived on the streets for 6 years, with no income and no contact with family or friends.
Kai experiences mental illness, and the psychosis often lead to him being in trouble with police. His Assertive Outreach Team care coordinator was able to build a rapport with Kai over months of consistent visits. Once Kai felt he could trust us, he accepted our offer of support, and we were able to introduce him to one of our psychiatrists, witrh whom Kai was able to start treatment for his mental health.
Addressing Kai’s health needs created great change for him, and allowed his warmth and intelligence to shine through. However, Kai was still not eligible for social housing, benefits or disability support. After 18 months of exploration of all accommodation avenues, and liaison with government agencies here and overseas, financial support was secured. We were about to find an assisted boarding house that welcomed him to a permanent home.
Tom’s story (Homeless Outreach team)
During the COVID-19 response the Homeless Outreach Team received a referral with significant concerns. Tom is a young man who was sleeping rough on his own in an isolated park. He politely declined assistance whenever support or housing services visited him and appeared to be experiencing mental illness.
The Homeless Outreach Team nurse and Peer Support Worker made several outreach visits to meet with Tom and build rapport. Once some trust was established, Tom accepted support to access Temporary Accommodation through the Department of Communities and Justice COVID-19 response.
Tom had become so isolated and unwell that he had had no income, no Medicare card and no ID. As his hotel room was being arranged, Tom asked for the services supporting him to contact his mother as he missed her. Tom had become estranged from his family due to his poor mental health, and said that shame and guilt stopping him from contacting them in the past.
Nothing prepared the services for the response of overwhelming joy from Tom’s family when Tom made contact. They immediately drove to Sydney from their town in regional NSW to see him. It was an incredible privilege to bear witness to Tom reuniting with his family.
Tom is now on his way to moving into long term, stable accommodation. He is receiving support and treatment for his health issues. He has ID, a Medicare card and an income via Centrelink. And most importantly of all, he has his family.
Gloria’s story (After Hours Team)
Our Homeless Health After Hours Team met Gloria at a clinic at a local women’s refuge. Gloria is in her 40s and was born overseas. She fled domestic violence and came to Australia as a refugee. When she attended the clinic, staff were able to get to know Gloria and assess her complex health needs with assistance from a telephone interpreter service.
The team had serious concerns for Gloria’s health, so they facilitated a week-long admission to St Vincent’s Hospital. Medical imaging results were clear and treatment was initiated. Gloria continues to take daily medication and regularly attends our outreach clinic for check ups.
Our role is much bigger than the healthcare we provide during our clinics. We assisted Gloria to access domestic violence counselling in the O’Brien Centre and she continues to attend sessions with her social worker. We also linked Gloria with an asylum seeker and refuges support service, where she is able to connect with community members, access a GP and various support services including legal assistance to support her residency.
Working alongside Gloria reminded us why our Homeless Health Service is so important – we bring healthcare and support to people who are vulnerable, marginalised and often overlooked, despite severe health conditions. Our clients deserve all of the care and opportunities we can provide.
Peter’s story (Stanford House)
Peter was a resident of Stanford House for 4 months. When he moved in, he was experiencing anxiety and depression after leaving a long term abusive relationship. Peter was diagnosed with HIV when he was in his 30s and accesses specialist support and treatment. Stanford House staff assisted Peter to link in with a local GP, access additional support and healthcare, as well as financial and legal support.
Staying in the safe, supportive environment of Stanford House helped Peter rebuild his life after the relationship breakdown. He connected with staff and other residents, cooking regularly for everyone and gaining the confidence to join a cooking class at a local service. His anxiety and depression improved considerably and he continues to engage in treatment.
Peter is now thriving in a transitional property. He has a strong support network and welcomes monthly visits from Stanford House. Of his stay at Stanford House, he says ‘I felt safe, respected and the staff always listened and were always on hand to give advice and point you in the right direction with services to help you start your new life.’
Karen's story (Tierney House)
Karen is a 27 year old Indigenous female who had been rough sleeping in Kings Cross for some years. She was referred to Tierney House by the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. She had recently received a diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder and was stabilising on depot medication while residing at Tierney House.
She has had multiple previous physical health issues, a history of domestic violence and associated trauma and injuries. She has a drug dependency and is linked in with the Stimulant Treatment Program. In addition her care is supported by a number of internal and external services.
In Tierney House she was linked with a Work Development Order, Dental Services, assisted with legal issues, and Tierney House staff also assisted Karen in completing her application for Housing through Housing NSW and compiling the necessary documentation.
Karen has since moved on to Weigelli Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation and is about to finish her 3 month stay there. She reports she’s doing well and stays in contact with the team. Latest reports are that she has been offered a property in the Eastern suburbs and is looking forward to moving in.