Nine agencies band together to end homeless encampments in the Hawkesbury

NINE agencies have been working to end homeless encampments in the Hawkesbury through a project called 'It's no place to call home'.

The results were discussed at Wentworth Community Housing's annual general meeting on Friday, when a panel discussion shared their experiences of the cross-agency project to house people sleeping rough along the Hawkesbury River banks.

Tent encampments are a growing trend along the river, as people who are homeless strive to find a place to call home.

Through the project - led by Hawkesbury City Council and involving representatives from Wentworth Community Housing, Platform Youth Services, New South Wales Family and Community Services Housing, NSW Police - Windsor, Hawkesbury Helping Hands, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Mental Health, Hawkesbury District Health Service and Homelessness NSW - the agencies met weekly for three months.

Jenny Ranft, Wentworth's Divisional Manager, Community Services, who led Wentworth's team, said the group connected with every person living on the Hawkesbury river banks, visiting daily to build relationships and help find them a home and the support they needed.

"At the end of the project, no-one was sleeping rough by the river. Hawkesbury City Council has cleaned up the sites and returned them for the community to enjoy," Ms Ranft said.

From 33 campsites around the Hawkesbury, 28 people were involved in the project. Twenty were housed through the project, four people withdrew through the life of the project, and these people along with another four people are still being engaged with by the project team to work out their particular requirements.

Katherine McKernan, CEO of Homelessness NSW, said "the work and outcomes achieved at Hawkesbury were best practice and highlighted how services can work together to provide housing and support for people sleeping rough."

"What we saw were all agencies doing what they do best, working together and putting the needs of the rough sleepers first," Ms McKernan said.

Chair of Wentworth, Ken Gilbert, stressed Wentworth's commitment to working to resolve homelessness in the region.

"We remain proud of our ongoing record in the homelessness space. This year our team participated in a best practice approach to successfully resolve larger-scale, embedded homeless encampments in public spaces. The response resulted in a win/win for the homeless individuals and the Hawkesbury community," Mr Gilbert said.

A profile of clients involved in the project identified the following support needs: 46 per cent required mental health support; 57 per cent required health support; 29 per cent required drug and/or alcohol support; and 18 per cent required other types of support including obtaining documentation and income.

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