WAYSS Response to Homelessness in Our Region

Wayss is the largest provider of homelessness and family violence services and transitional housing in the Southern Melbourne Area. Our service area is the most culturally diverse community in Australia, with 157 different language groups. Seventy percent of our community members speak a language other than English as their first language.

Each year, Wayss provides crisis response services to more than 15,000 highly vulnerable people in our local communities. Crisis response is what we do at Wayss … it’s what we have been doing for almost 50 years – and we are sick of it. That’s why we want to be a part of a meaningful dialogue to identify sustainable solutions to ending homelessness.

The impact of COVID-19 on homelessness is exacerbating what was already a challenging situation. From April to May 2020, Wayss responded to almost 1000 more inquiries for homelessness services. In increasing numbers, we bear witness to stories of homelessness that extend beyond the stereotype. We meet older women, experiencing homelessness for the first time in their lives and large families, with up to nine children. Compared to the same time last year, in May 2020 we supported almost 100 more families escaping family violence.

The underlying challenge, during the pandemic and afterwards, remains. What needs to be done to create sustainable solutions to ending homelessness?

Rising property and rental prices and an unprecedented population boom have impacted heavily on people living in

our region. These trends have placed pressure on all forms of housing and especially on secure housing options for low-income and vulnerable households.

Within the Outer South East suburbs, it is not just a matter of a lack of affordable housing, it is also a lack of appropriate housing for young people and people living on their own. There is a chronic shortage of affordable one and two- bedroom properties and, quite simply, rooming houses and caravan parks are not sustainable or suitable housing options for everyone and especially not for vulnerable older women and young people.

Across the Local Government Areas of Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia, there is a distinct lack of diverse, affordable housing

that reflects the needs of the local community. Wayss contends that local councils can play an important role in ensuring diverse housing is built into new developments within their municipality.

Wayss supports incentive based, rather than mandatory, inclusionary zoning for new housing developments. If 10-20% of new developments were set aside for purpose-built for social housing, we would make significant inroads into addressing the chronic shortage of permanent accommodation in our region.

The blight of homelessness is to our collective shame and it won’t be resolved if we work in isolation. Creating sustainable and affordable longer-term housing strategies is a whole of community responsibility. It relies on genuine collaboration between all levels of government, the business and community sectors, philanthropic and social investors and the local community.

JOINT VENTURES FOR COMMUNITY HOUSING

Under the banner of our “Built for Good” program, Wayss manages the Main Street Project – a living example of the possible that has created 10 purpose-built townhouses for women and children survivors of family violence. The Cardinia Council, The Peter and Lyndy White Foundaition, Sienna Homes, Wayss and Windemere, two local specialist support service providers, have worked together to create permanent, affordable housing paired with wrap around onsite services focused on helping the families who call Main Street home to recover from the trauma of domestic violence. The collaboration has now expanded to create local community partnerships to support the Main Street families, including with a local hairdresser and a school.

ROOMING HOUSES

For many people, rooming houses represent the only option for affordable and sustainable long-term housing and yet the people who live in rooming houses are often the forgotten people. Wayss supports purpose built, registered rooming houses with wrap around support services as a permanent affordable housing option for some members of our community.

Wayss has taken the initiative to partner with the City of Casey to actively support tenants in rooming houses through an Assertive Outreach Program. The program responds to an identified need to provide rooming house tenants with support to address issues that led to them having to access homelessness services in the first instance. Tenants are supported to engage with primary health services and to develop independent living skills; and to reintegrate with their families, the community and work, education and training opportunities.

HEAD LEASING PRIVATE RENTAL PROPERTIES

Head leasing is another initiative that relies on collaboration and developing positive partnerships with the private landlords. Wayss has achieved significant success with head- leasing models and strongly supports their continued expansion as a means of supporting vulnerable people to secure housing.

Tenants who may struggle to enter the private rental market independently can access the market under a scaled rent model while they are supported and empowered to gain independent skills of tenancy and a positive rental history and that will support greater independence in the private rental market.

Wayss endorses congregate and scatter site supportive housing, based on a housing first approach.

Wayss acknowledges that for some people, securing housing is only part of the solution. We regard the combination of a discerning approach to housing with wrap around support services to be the key to disrupting homelessness.

Case managed support (including financial brokerage) to people who need to access homelessness service entry points significantly increases the opportunity for a sustained tenancy.

... A FINAL WORD

There is currently a significant opportunity and impetus for a housing led economic recovery that can be of substantial and lasting benefit to the health and wellbeing of our local community. Wayss is committed to contributing the benefit of our working knowledge and local experience to a future that delivers sustainable, safe and affordable housing solutions.

Elizabeth Thomas
WAYSS CEO

Wayss in the 1990s

Then in September 1997 the organisation became WAYSS Limited with a Board of Directors and day to day management by the Chief Executive Officer.

Wayss underwent further transformation with the restructure of community housing and the funding of the Transitional Housing Management (THM) program. The Regional Housing Council ceased operation and transferred direct service operations to Wayss in 1997.

During this decade Wayss became responsible for the then South East Women’s Domestic Violence Outreach Service. Funding was also received to establish a Children’s Services Worker within the outreach service. SAAP funded Women’s Outreach Program was also transferred to Wayss in 1999.