Australia Case Study: Wintringham

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Best Practice | May 1, 2012

Files: PDF | 197 KB | 3 pages

Wintringham

Wintringham is a program in Melbourne, Australia that uses an innovative approach to address the issues of older people experiencing homelessness. Its goal is to end homelessness for the people it serves. In order to accomplish this it has built a network of accommodation and support services throughout Melbourne with a focus on developing strong partnerships and adopting innovative services and perspectives. It also works to affect the policy environment locally, nationally and internationally.

Wintringham was founded in 1989 when the founder, Bryan Lipman, took note of the high number of elderly homeless people sleeping rough and in shelters, and the lack of services designed for the specific needs of this population. Due to the structure of the homelessness service system, elderly people were getting left behind and were at high risk of death. Wintringham was founded in order to build and run hostels specifically for elderly people. What started as a few low-care hostels in Melbourne has grown into a network of affordable housing, hostels, a nursing home and outreach services.

Wintringham provides a variety of services, including the following:

  • Housing. Wintringham has built hostels, individual residences, and a nursing home to aid and support the elderly who are homeless. Each residency offers care and other services that are designed to meet the specific needs and goals of each individual resident. Overall Wintringham has 16 locations, and is growing. It prides itself on the fact that its accommodation is more than just housing, but respectable homes.
  • Community care. Wintringham has a variety of services that it offers outside of its accommodation services. This includes outreach services, housing support, and partnerships with federal programs for the elderly. It works with existing services for elderly people, adapting them to assist their service users in more effective ways. For example, Wintringham receives funding from the Community Aged Care Package; an existing program Wintringham tapped for resources.
  • Recreation. Wintringham runs a recreation program, through which it aims to ensure its service users have access to a variety of activities.
  • Wintringham has built on its success to lobby for increased rights and services for elderly people experiencing homelessness. It has partnered and worked with the Department of Health and Aging to help create more flexible responses to the issues surrounding aged care for people experiencing homelessness.

    The majority of Wintringham’s funding comes from the Federal Government, which has provided the funds for most of the hostels built. This funding comes largely from the Commonwealth’s Aged Care program and the Housing for the Aged program. Service users who live in Wintringham’s housing also contribute through paying affordable rents for their homes. The service receives over 18.8 million Australian dollars per year. 391 people are employed by the organisation. The staff includes a mix of outreach workers, support workers, people who work in the residential buildings, and information technology and business management workers.

    Wintringham has reported a number of benefits from its programs. A key benefit is a reduction in hospital visits by the people they serve. Prior to engaging with Wintringham, service users were frequent users of hospital services, where they received incomplete care at a very high cost. Through providing supported housing the number of hospital visits by service users has decreased. The number of people exiting Wintringham’s services is also low, suggesting that the services provided are a good match for the needs and goals of this population. The service is flexible, for example in allowing residents to keep a pet.

    Implications for International Policy and Practice

    Wintringham fills a gap in the policy environment and service system surrounding aged people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne. The organisation has targeted a highly vulnerable population that has arguably been ignored. The service has been key in a broader movement to acknowledge and close this gap. They do not just address housing, but also equal access to aged services. They have attempted to shift current understanding from looking at a ‘homeless and elderly’ population to an ‘elderly and homeless’ population. They aspire to change the housing industry and the aged care industry.