Victoria’s funding commitments for Haven homes will transform lives

By Gill Callister PSM

4 October 2021

The recent announcement by Homes Victoria of a further 62 Haven social / affordable homes will change people’s lives. To be built in four priority regional areas – Seymour, Ballarat West, Drouin and North Bendigo as part of the nation-leading Big Housing Build these add to the 100 Haven social housing with support places previously announced under the Homes Victoria Social Housing Growth Fund, with 84 units under construction in Pakenham, Mooroopna, Epping and Laverton – and the recently opened 16-unit Haven Geelong.

The Haven combines a safe and independent home with mental health support focused on recovery. This enables people with significant long-term mental health issues to lead successful and fulfilling lives in the community. In so many cases it will mean overcoming the cycles of homelessness and mental ill-health that too often lead to crisis patch-up visits to hospital EDs or hospitalisations.

The Homes Victoria commitment to deliver 2,000 homes for Victorians living with mental illness offers real promise of a mass circuit breaker to these cycles. The government is committed to ensure provision of adequate housing, one of the recommendations in the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

But it is not just housing that these Haven residences will provide. The evidence, not surprisingly, indicates that holistic approaches that integrate housing and mental health support with social support, healthcare, and effective early intervention avoid or break these cycles and assist in enabling people to lead independent, productive and meaningful lives in the community. This is exactly what Havens do.

The Haven supported independent living model provides fully self-contained medium-density apartments with public space areas and facilities for around the clock support staff. This design provides the perfect combination of independent living in a community environment designed to maximise the benefits of both.

At existing Havens our qualified and skilled staff provide individualised, tailored psychosocial and wellbeing supports to every resident, helping them set and achieve their own goals. This is much more than a mental health service – the focus is on a better life which builds the pathway out of a constant cycle of mental ill-health.

As the CEO of Mind Australia, I am especially pleased that our My Better Life® model now forms the centrepiece of our person-centred recovery support in Havens and other supported independent living services. This gives residents the opportunity to identify the recovery goals that are most meaningful to them and the pathways to achieve them. You can find out more about My Better Life in the latest issue of Mind View.

Through clients’ My Better Life® plans and our outcome measures surveys, Mind is also able - for the first time - to use the aggregated data to evaluate the success of all of our programs and services for continual service improvement. This will also provide important data on the effectiveness of psychosocial support.

Families and carers are a critical part of the Haven model and their involvement and participation is welcome and encouraged. Maintaining family relationships is an important part of recovery and regular family hub meetings ensure they are involved in the Haven community and people’s recovery. Haven’s strongly family-inclusive and peer-led approach to recovery means people get the support they need without compromising existing family connections.

When Premier Andrews made this funding announcement at the newly opened Haven Geelong, he was shown around the premises by one of its new residents, a young woman named Rebecca. Talking to the Premier and later the media, Rebecca articulated what a difference it was already making to her to have a safe and supported place to call home. Notably she talked about how it felt to be no longer at the mercy of the fear her mental health condition would induce when she was alone.

“Already it feels like we are a family here,” Rebecca said. That safety is something so many of us take for granted and something so many more people like Rebecca deserve.