Better Health and Housing Program provides beds to those most in need


Pictured above: Sam Corrie, Manager, Sumner House; Una McKeever, Manager, Healthcare for the Homeless; Jess McMeniman, Coordinator, Sumner House (Launch Housing).

Fifteen beds at Sumner House will now provide people experiencing chronic homelessness and associated poor health with secure and safe accommodation as part of St Vincent’s newly established Better Health and Housing Program (BHHP). 

In partnership with Homes Victoria, Launch Housing and The Brotherhood of St Laurence, the initiative will see Sumner House move to a hybrid model. This includes its continued operation of a COVID-19 Isolation and Recovery Facility (CIRF) but at a reduced capacity, alongside the BHHP. As COVID utilisation reduces, it is intended that the BHHP will scale to a maximum capacity of 25 beds.

Residents will be supported over a period of three to six months, as staff work closely with them to address resident-identified goals related to their health, housing and broader life domains. 

Better together

The Better Health and Housing Program has been designed by consortium partners who, as a result of COVID-19, have been rapidly brought together from disparate agencies.

According to St Vincent’s Healthcare for the Homeless Manager, Una McKeever, “the initiative has seen us all working together to find an integrated wraparound service for our clients.”

"Our work throughout COVID-19 has formed foundations from which to develop this new model of care, that grows partnerships even further.”

Breaking the cycle 

People experiencing chronic homelessness often also experience a range of overlapping physical and mental health issues which can make accessing or maintaining stable housing challenging. 

The BHHP provides an integrated health and homelessness service for people who have experienced chronic homelessness including rough sleeping and staying in emergency or temporary accommodation and have complex health and psychosocial issues.

The program is being developed to trial and evaluate a new approach in the current setting of steadily increasing demand.

Breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness and poor health, through support coupled with stable housing, aims to dramatically improve a participant’s quality of life, and reduce demand on expensive health, welfare, and justice systems.

Over the coming months, the program will be evaluated to help inform how it can be scaled up in the future to provide continued support.