01/07/2010 - 00:00

Finding funding for Freo homeless

01/07/2010 - 00:00

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DESPITE an increased focus on homelessness by both state and federal governments of late, services in Fremantle are bursting at the seams, with needs growing beyond the capacity of financial support.

DESPITE an increased focus on homelessness by both state and federal governments of late, services in Fremantle are bursting at the seams, with needs growing beyond the capacity of financial support.

In April, respected local health service the Freo Street Doctor, which offers medical services to homeless people in the Fremantle area, lost funding for the service it operates from Pioneer Park.

The service’s application was rejected because it did not meet the stringent criteria set by government funding bodies and departments.

Until last week, when the City of Fremantle stepped in to offer gap funding for the Pioneer Park service for six months, the Freo Street Doctor was relying on funds it had in reserves.

Chief executive of the Fremantle General Practitioner Network (which runs the Freo Street Doctor), Christa Riegler, said securing ongoing funding for the Freo Street Doctor had been challenging.

“Sometimes funding is too siloed. We are talking about a particular group of patients that have a need, so let’s work on that and how do these funding criteria work,” Ms Riegler said.

“[In terms of] the Commonwealth funding, one of the criteria is always ‘how will you make this self sustaining without this funding at the end of this period?’ You can’t; you are talking about the nature of a patient group, where you cannot self-fund.

“Medicare items do not cover them. If you were able to make it self-sustainable, normal general practice would be doing it (servicing the homeless).

“It is the constant education of funders that this doesn’t work. Is that the responsibility of the government, to look after the welfare of the most disadvantaged? If you can answer that question, then I think you can answer the funding question.”

The Freo Street Doctor currently operates six sessions across the south metro area on a $260,000 annual budget. Ms Riegler said the demand was high for the service and given the support, they would have the capacity to run 12 sessions each week.

Twice weekly the Freo Street Doctor operates from Saint Patrick’s Community Support Centre – a centre that was developed in 1972 primarily as a soup kitchen as a way for the local parish to support homeless men in the area.

The service today offers on-site health support, recreation facilities, lodging and housing support, crisis care, arts programs and basic support such as showers and food services.

St Patrick’s’ manager of strategic planning and governance, Michael Piu, said federal and state support had grown since the inception of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness two years ago.

St Patricks now receives $400,000 in funding from the Department of Child Protection to support its Street to Home and Supportive Housing Worker programs.

Mr Piu said the way the funding had been approached was the way forward for funding of it’s kind.

“They have left it flexible, even before we got the funding all the agencies were invited to get involved and develop the specifications. They said ‘you guys are the ones who know how to do this, come and tell us how you think it should work,” Mr Piu said.

“It’s revolutionary for government. They tell us from their ivory towers, ‘do it this way’ and these guys, they haven’t operated like that at all and because of that we are already seeing results.”

The centre also receives smaller-scale funding support from government departments and St John of God Healthcare, and receives in-kind volunteer support from university and Tafe students supplying it with hairdressers, chiropractors, podiatrists massage therapy and other alternative health treatments.

 

 

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