The last word on solving homelessness
December 13, 2019 3rd Space

The last word on solving homelessness

Published 13 December 2019

This is my last Fireside.

A few weeks ago, I accepted a position as the CEO of Foodbank Queensland and ever since, I have been thinking about what I could write in this final edition.

In my personal life I recently committed to ensuring that my decisions are led by evidence and not by social media or Google. I have made alterations to my diet and exercise after seeking out the scientific consensus on the appropriate options for me. I have deepened my commitment to addressing my contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. In seeking out the evidentiary consensus, I had to confront some of my own preconceived notions and challenge some of my long-accepted beliefs. In making a commitment to seek out good evidence to help me go forward in my life, I am drawn to tell you what the evidence is about homelessness.

The best evidence across the globe is that the only solution to homelessness is to use a ‘Housing First’ approach. In this approach, a secure, appropriately amenable and sustainable accommodation solution is provided as a first course of action and immediate, interwoven support is provided to support the person address other challenges and issues. Without a home, addressing the other challenges is near impossible. ‘Housing First’ is the evidence-based consensus view on what solves homelessness. Other approaches are reactionary bandaids that solve an immediate crisis but are not supported by evidence as being solutions to homelessness.

3rd Space sees daily our role as the paramedics for people experiencing homelessness. While there is good evidence that drop-in centres provide vital places of respite and support for people experiencing marginalisation and homelessness, there would be little need for them if a ‘Housing First’ approach was rolled out nationally.

Australia does not adopt a national ‘Housing First’ approach. Next week, I will walk through the floors of 3rd Space and say my goodbyes to visitors who I have known for five years. I could try to seduce you with stories of connection found through meaningful conversations with them, but those great conversations lead to nothing in and of themselves. Fortunately, there are visitors who are long gone, safe within a home that can sustain them and that they can sustain. They are the fortunate and the few. I take comfort that the very persistent and committed team at 3rd Space has been able to pave a way to access what limited accommodation is available and then, working with other committed outcomes-based services in our local area, weave a plan of support to help people stay in their homes.

There are many people I could formally thank. You would be reading for hours if I listed them. For anyone who has played a part in our work, thank you. Thank you for contributing in your own way, what you could and when you were able.

I have told you before about a man who I had come to know very well, who approached me some time back to tell me he was going to say a final goodbye. I was happy for him and also sad that I would never see him again. He had a way of disappearing quite well into the ether – but a little birdie tells me he is doing well, has found love and reconnected with his children after many years of fractured relationships. He was here on the first day I walked into 3rd Space and fittingly, as I write this, I see we have a piece of mail to forward to him. He used to refer to being homeless as “camping out” but I am ever so glad he isn’t camping out anymore.

Sending you all my very best wishes. Over and out……

3rd Space CEO