Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) recognises the importance of having a safe, stable and affordable home for every single member of our community. Many people throughout Melbourne’s East do not have a place to call home, including almost 10% of ECLC’s clients in the last year.
ECLC strongly supports National Homelessness Week and efforts to create the housing, access and support that people need. This includes improvements in the way community legal services are provided to people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
The HEAL program is one example where ECLC is delivering a flexible model of legal work that works together with a client advocate trained in mental health, homelessness and alcohol/drug support.
A recent client, Suzy*, had struggled to keep appointments and pick up the phone due to the impact of homelessness, family violence and mental illness. Other support services had not been able to work with her effectively because she was transient, moving across regions and service catchment areas. She had lost support a number of times as a result.
Having a community lawyer working alongside a client advocate led to changes in the way we worked with Suzy, which meant she got the assistance she needed. She resolved her legal issues, including unpaid fines and debt, and made progress towards stable long-term housing.
ECLC’s Marika Manioudakis said “There is a strong relationship between homelessness and legal issues. Homelessness drives people into situations where they end up in legal trouble, whether it is unpaid fines or more serious issues. At the same time, unresolved legal issues make it harder for people to get into stable housing.”
“One of the major barriers is the way services are structured around geographical catchments, meaning that people who move from one area to another can easily fall through the cracks or have to start again with a new provider. If funding allowed support to stay with each person then we would see better health, housing and legal outcomes for people.”
“Our approach through HEAL recognises the complexity of each person’s situation and addresses it as a whole. We are working to apply these lessons across all our services and programs.”
HEAL is funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner.
*Name has been changed to protect client confidentiality