Have; Home, Safe Board Members and Management with partner agency representatives (and Trevor in the You.t).

Haven; Home, Safe (HHS) have officially launched its mobile off-road assertive outreach service for rough sleepers in Swan Hill called the HeyYou-t.

The HeyYou-t hit the road three weeks ago and has already successfully engaged with eight people, including two men who had been rough sleeping in tents on the banks of the Murray River.

An initiative of the State Government’s Victorian Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan, the HeyYou-T and HeyVan in Bendigo are two of eight assertive outreach programs across the state to service areas identified as having the highest incidence of rough sleeping.

The HeyYou-t is a safe space where rough sleepers can connect with the Homeless Assertive Outreach Response team. It carries basic foods and essential items and stops at several known locations across the Swan Hill region. 

The Swan Hill service has been funded through the Department of Health and Human Services for $861,000 over two years and has the capacity to provide assertive outreach to up to 120 people sleeping rough a year, including rapid access to emergency accommodation, health services, ongoing case management and housing support.

HHS Acting Chair Jan Boynton said the agency was working closely with its key program partner, Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS), to implement the outreach service in consultation with a steering committee comprising representatives from Swan Hill Rural City Council, Mallee Family Care, Victoria Police, Mallee Family Violence, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Those who sleep rough are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community,” Ms Boynton said, “and assertive outreach is the most effective way to find and engage with them.”

Over the five years to 2016–17, there was a 72 per cent increase across Victoria in the number of clients sleeping rough when first seeking support from a specialist homelessness service like HHS, according to the Rough Sleeping Action Plan.

Escalating issues have driven the increase in rough sleeping, including increasing housing costs, lack of affordable housing, the inadequacy of Centrelink income support, and family violence.

HHS Chief Operations Officer Trudi Ray said rough sleeping could be experienced by anyone, single adult men and women, and families with dependent children – with some groups more vulnerable such as Aboriginal Victorians, young people, older people, and LGBTIQ+ people.

“Rough sleeping exposes people to a range of harms including violence and extreme weather conditions with lasting impacts on both their physical and mental health and their capacity for social and economic participation,” Ms Ray said.

“Although many people sleep rough for only a short time, the longer a person remains without shelter, the more serious the effects on their health and wellbeing and the more difficult it is to resolve their homelessness,” she said.

The HeyYou-t operates Monday to Friday and provides a range of outreach services, including:

  • Early intervention to prevent long-term homelessness
  • Access to emergency accommodation
  • Access to specialist services such as mental health, drug and alcohol support, allied health and more.
  • Case management to address and support the complex needs of people experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough
  • Early intervention strategies, aiming to reduce the psychosocial impact of rough sleeping
  • Ongoing support offering for people to be relocated off the street and into safe and permanent housing
  • Innovative responses and support to people who may not engage with traditional services