By David Schout and Ruby Selwood-Thomas,
Entering its 19th year of operation, Hosier Lane’s Living Room continues to provide a vital free health service for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
Its unique position in the heart of the CBD on an iconic Melbourne laneway ensures it remains a welcoming, go-to facility for those in a vulnerable position aged 18 and over.
The Youth Projects-run facility offers drop-in services that, at a basic level, include free showers and laundry, clothing, food, phone charging and internet access. More importantly, however, they combine medical care, mental health and drug counselling and pathways to training apprenticeships and jobs.
Richie Goonan, Operations Manager of Community Health at Youth Projects, said the clinic allowed clients to have quick access to healthcare in a non-judgemental setting, as opposed to the difficulties faced accessing care through facilities such as hospital emergency departments.
The Living Room’s “no judgement” motto remains to this day, avoiding the societal tendency to attribute blame on those who are in difficult circumstances.
“We at the Living Room know that it’s structural and environmental factors that cause people to become homeless,” Mr Goonan said. “Being homeless doesn’t define who they are, it is just the circumstance they find themselves in at the moment.”
Medical staff are onsite during all opening hours, and over the past five years those opening hours have been extended to include Saturdays, thanks to funding from North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN).
“While there is a breadth of services Monday to Friday in the CBD, there are very few services after hours and on weekends,” Mr Goonan said. “The ability to have a safe space to go to are few and far between.”
Living Room’s value to those in need is summed up by the story of William* who, after years of sleeping rough in country Victoria with only his dog for company, decided it was time to seek a different life.
After jumping on a train and ending up at Flinders Street Station, William stumbled upon the Hosier Lane facility.
The clinic was able to organise crisis accommodation for him (and his dog) after his first visit and began the process of transferring his healthcare from rural Victoria to Melbourne.
Clinic staff were also able to help William with his application for permanent housing. After six weeks of receiving support from the Living Room, William had all his mental and physical healthcare transferred to local services, with help from the clinic’s mental health nurse, general practitioner and practice nurse.
He was also provided with counselling and treatment for his chronic health conditions, including diabetes and hepatitis C.