Every year, in the first week of August, Homelessness Australia coordinate Homelessness Week. It’s a week to raise awareness of homelessness, the people who experience it and the issues they face.
Barbara Quick, a Community Engagement Officer at the Department of Human Services, explains what role she plays in supporting homeless Australians.
“I work with our most vulnerable customers to achieve outcomes which to us may be relatively small but to those we help can be life-changing,” Barbara explained.
Community Engagement Officers help customers with complex needs and provide help in places where those customers feel comfortable.
Barbara, or Barb as she prefers, has worked for the department for the past four years and is based in Darwin in the Northern Territory. Part of her job has been building relationships with partner agencies and community organisations to create a strong support network for customers in need.
“Working together we’ve had some amazing outcomes,” she said. “It means we can help people like Ellen*, who I first met in 2013, much more intensively.”
Ellen was living in a tent by the mangroves with her dog when Barb first met her. She was affected by depression and had been robbed several times due to her unsafe living conditions.
Barb helped Ellen lodge an application for housing, and implement strategies to manage her finances with basic financial planning.
Over the next 2 years, Barb saw Ellen on several occasions continuing to help her with her housing application and referring her for help with her mental illness.
“After the psychologist saw Ellen, he offered to help with her request for housing. His intervention meant NT Housing placed her on a priority list.”
Six months ago, NT Housing offered Ellen a unit and allowed her dog to live with her.
Barb is still working with Ellen to help her with strategies to manage her finances, as well as providing assistance in relation to her Centrelink payment.
“She regularly attends our outreach session at Bagot to touch base and let us know she’s okay,” Barb said.
“What we’ve been able to achieve for Ellen by working with partner agencies has been fantastic. For a customer isolated and disconnected from society for so long, it’s a really great outcome.”
The theme for this year’s Homelessness Week is ‘homelessness counts’, encouraging us all to recognise that those experiencing homelessness are a valuable part of our society and need to be supported.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.