National Age Discrimination Commissioner, Kay Patterson, has praised the Wellways housing program, Doorway. Offered at three Victorian trial sites, Doorway is helping homeless people with mental health issues find somewhere to live in the private market.

Speaking at the Council of The Ageing annual meeting, Dr Patterson, said the Doorway model was producing great results and “could work more broadly to help address a range of housing issues”. 

“(Homelessness) is both an age issue and a women's issue. And it needs a 'multi-pronged approach' that acknowledges the complex range of people in different circumstances at different ages,” she said.

People in the program are required to pay 30 per cent of their income and Commonwealth Rent Assistance directly towards housing, and Doorway pays the difference for up to 18 months. They are also provided with practical support to help find and set up somewhere to live.

Participants are among the community’s most vulnerable, with complicated mental health issues that have seen them ‘couch surfing’ or sleeping in cars. The program is delivered in partnership with Latrobe Regional Hospital and real estate agents using existing private rentals.

Wellways Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Crowther said Doorway was making a difference in people’s lives and helps keep them out of hospital. “We’ve seen that with the right support and assistance people can move back into permanent housing and rebuild their lives,” Ms Crowther said.

“They’ve found jobs, paid their rent on time and best of all, their health improves,” she said.

As Doorway participant and Gippsland resident Jessica explains: “I have been a part of this amazing program back when I was really struggling with my mental health and could no longer support myself in my own home. I found myself sleeping on friend’s couches and in my car with all my belongings in storage. It was a scary and unpredictable time for me. The point in my life where I tried many times to give up completely. 

“This program is fantastic with its support and guidance around getting myself and my dogs into stable accommodation. I had help from my support worker with finding the home through the real estate (agents), being set up with anything I needed once in the house, then ongoing support both financially and 1 on 1 for 18 months. 

“For me this has been life changing, from feeling as though there was no hope and the feelings of failure I was finally able to get back into my own home where I could work safely on my demons and go back to studying nursing. 

“I am now in my own home, working as a nurse and really satisfied with all me achievements. It has taken a lot of hard work both physically and mentally but here I am!”

Solving housing crisis one person at a time

Beth Fogerty, Gippsland manager and Josh Oates from the Housing and Recovery program recently spoke about the Wellways Doorway program at a recent national housing conference in Sydney.

The pair presented the session, “Bursting the private rental bubble for people who are homeless with a mental illness” at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s (AHURI) conference in November.

The presentation was well-received and conference visitors were more than happy to take part in Wellways Advocacy campaign, Homes for everyone

The Doorway program, developed by Wellways, gives assistance to people who are homeless and have mental health issues. It relies on the private rental market and promotes choice for people along with sustainability and social inclusion.

It operates with the help of real estate agents and Victorian Government funding. 

The biennial National Housing Conference is the single largest cross-sectoral event in Australasia for the social and affordable housing sectors. AHURI delivered the National Housing Conference 2017 in partnership with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. Over 1100 people gathered to critically examine opportunities to create a better housing system for all Australians.

The comprehensive program considered the entire housing continuum and brought together leading researchers, practitioners and policymakers to share information and discuss issues.