People living with a mental illness are struggling to cope with the new set of pressures that comes with living in social housing, a new report has found.
The report by the NSW Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Service found that without on-going support, many formerly homeless people living with mental illness consider returning to the streets, rather than tackling the social and administrative challenges of living in high-density social housing.
“Somewhere over the rainbow” – The opinions and experiences of people living with mental illness in getting housing, is the third in a series of reports by the PIAC’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Service regarding mental illness and homelessness.
PIAC says the latest report is the result of consultations facilitated by members of its consumer advisory group on homelessness, StreetCare, and 30 people with a history of mental illness who had recently experienced a period of homelessness.
The report said that nearly all participants recounted in vivid language some of the horrendous experiences of homelessness, abuse, violence and discrimination they had been subject to.
“Many felt that the lack of support and lack of sensitivity they received from government housing officers and private real estate agents robbed them of their dignity and eroded their self-worth,” the report said.
“These feelings were often compounded when they were assigned social housing accommodation in areas that lacked social cohesion and were dysfunctional, unsafe and remote from necessary amenities and support services.”
Many participants recounted how they felt like “garbage dumped on a tip”, forced to live in situations which exacerbated their feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression or stress.
“Long-term casework support, community programs and counselling services are essential to assist this vulnerable group to avoid returning to homelessness,” Senior Policy Officer Lou Schetzer said.
“During the finalisation of this report, the NSW Government announced that it was reviewing the training of frontline staff in public housing, community housing and specialist homelessness services in working with people with mental health issues, with a view to identifying improvements to the current approach to training of these personnel.
“PIAC welcomes this announcement, and looks forward to working with the Department of Family and Community Services Learning and Development Team to ensure that the training addresses some of the key areas identified by StreetCare and the consumers who participated in this consultation.
“One of the most significant issues to come out of this consultation is the recognition that exiting homelessness for people with mental illness is not a process that concludes once that person has been able to access stable accommodation, as important as that step is.”
The project received financial support from StreetSmart, through its Community Small Grant Scheme.
This article first appeared on ‘Pro Bono News’ on 27 May 2014. See more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2014/05/social-housing-stress-mentally-ill-report#sthash.IlSd8LKq.dpuf