24/7 support for the homeless

By Sunny Liu

The CBD’s homeless people will get 24/7 mental health support from Northwestern Mental Health Service (NMHS) and Victoria Police from July 1. 

Currently NMHS in Parkville provides mental health treatment to the homeless from 2-10pm each day.

People sleeping rough on the streets and experiencing mental health issues will receive urgent help anytime of the day as part of a mental health and police response initiative.

Police will notify NMHS when they encounter homeless people needing immediate mental health treatment.

The mental health response helps patients receive support quickly and reduces the time police and emergency services spend on responding to related incidents and frees up more time for them to attend to other emergencies.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the mental health response program could help people transition out of homelessness.

“We know that people experiencing homelessness often have drug and alcohol addictions, or may suffer from mental health issues,” he said.

“This service will provide the support services rough sleepers need to help them find permanent pathways out of homelessness.”

“By bringing together police and mental health services to work as one, we can hopefully make a real difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness,” Cr Doyle said.

The mental health services will add to council’s Homelessness Daily Support team, which comprises four workers who have been directly assisting homeless people in accessing housing and services since April.

“The service will complement the work that our daily support team is doing to connect rough sleepers with outreach services and support, as well as collecting face-to-face data so that we know who is sleeping rough at any one time, the services they are using and their health and housing needs,” Cr Doyle said.

The City of Melbourne has endorsed its $2 million Pathways Innovation Package to fund homelessness programs, including the daily support team, Home Ground real estate, education program Connect Respect, a senior housing advisor and the Salvation Army’s Night Time Safe Space.

While the availability of homelessness support programs is improving, council has not yet made a final decision on the proposed amendments to its Activities Local Law 2009.

Discussions on the proposal, which aims to change the definition of camping and remove homeless people’s unattended belongings, have been adjourned to July 19.

A council spokesperson said the proposal was delayed “so that adequate time would be available to complete a review of the submissions received and consider the proposed changes against the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities”.

John Dall’Amico, president of Residents 3000, said removing homeless people’s belongings would “only clean up the streets for that day”.

“Homeless people’s belongings are mostly donated and they can re-gather things anyway even if they are taken away.”

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