Leading the conversation with carers around homelessness

Joe Calleja head shot

“Think of one word that comes to mind when you hear the word….. homeless. What feelings does it raise for you?
Annoyance, pity, discomfort?”

Our Interim CEO Joe Calleja recently led an important conversation around homelessness at the Carer Representation Network on 20 June, where he challenged the group to ask themselves if there was a time when they reached out to a person experiencing homelessness.

The Carers Representation Network meet monthly to hear from guest speakers to better understand issues affecting their work in the community, and to access resources.

“The question was without judgement but designed to encourage the audience to silently reflect on our relationship with people experiencing homelessness. What’s our instinct? To ignore them? Or to reach out?

“The people you see in the street are frowned upon and blamed for their situation. The issue of homelessness is heavily stigmatised.

“It’s really important that carers understand homelessness to break down this mythology and stigma. St Bart’s needs to build its relationships with carers generally, so this was a great opportunity to show our leadership in the sector and educate them about what we do,” Joe said.

Mei Huang Carers Representative Advisor said hearing from Joe was eye opening because a lot of people don’t understand that anyone can be two weeks away from homelessness.

“I was touched and moved to hear Dave’s personal story which Joe played for us. We really need to do more to break down the stigma of homelessness,” Mei said.

Joe also shared his insights from the work underway as part of the WA Alliance to End Homelessness. The Alliance brings together key agencies to form a leadership team to work with government and the community to bring an end to homelessness in Western Australia. The success of the 10-year plan relies heavily on collaboration and commitment from all involved.

“I encourage you to visit the website and find out more about the strategies that are guiding the plan. One that we know is effective is the Housing First approach. This is based on the belief that if you put a person in a house and then support them to live there, they will succeed. There’s plenty of research supporting this approach and St Bart’s is demonstrating this model through its Reconnecting Lives Program. The 50 Lives 50 Homes Project is another good example.”

Joe’s parting message to the Carer Representation Network was that if we work together and show leadership, we can change community attitudes and government policy.

“You are all leaders so help us make a difference.”