It’s hoped a program successfully eradicating rough sleeping in cities across the globe will spread across Australia, thanks to a new partnership that will train local communities to track and ultimately end homelessness. The Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (AAEH) has partnered with US organisation, Community Solutions, to grow the Advance to Zero movement across local communities in Australia.

Currently the only available data on homelessness in Australia comes from the Census, which is collected every five years.

In what marks an Australian first, organisations will be trained online, through a series of innovative action-labs, to build real-time lists of people experiencing homeless in the community.

These lists, known as “by-name lists”, are the first step of the Advance to Zero methodology, helping service providers understand how many people in the area need housing support, who they are and what their needs are to be housed.

The CEO of AAEH, David Pearson, told Pro Bono News that while steps were being taken towards implementing the program around Australia, the partnership would help expand its impact and reach communities all across the country.

“There’s a growing number of local council groups that are wanting to do it, and what this partnership with Community Solutions does is give us the opportunity to support those new communities to actually build a by-name list and then drive reductions in homelessness,” Pearson said.

The methodology relies on government, health, disability and charity services working together to support the needs of rough sleepers with the aim of reaching “functional zero homelessness”

A community reaches functional zero homelessness when the number of people who are homeless in a community in any given month is less than than the average housing placement rate for that same period.

So how well is the Advance to Zero movement working?

  • 13 communities in North America have reached functional zero
  • 41 communities have achieved a measurable reduction in homelessness
  • 68 communities have achieved quality real-time data on homelessness

Over the past few years, AAEH has called on Community Solutions to deliver mentoring programs in local council areas of Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Port Phillip and Adelaide. In 2019, Adelaide became the first city outside of North America to pull together a certified by-name list.

Pearson said he hoped the five communities currently working towards functional zero homelessness would grow to about 16, targeting communities across Western Australia and Victoria.

The first workshop will take place virtually on 17 December, and Pearson said it would not be a quick-fix initiative but would take extensive work and investment.

“This is long-term work. Ending homelessness is possible, but it’s not going to happen quickly and not unless you get all the right supports in place and you get the right investment,” he said.

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