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District focuses on people experiencing homelessness

District focuses on people experiencing homelessness.

Portrait of Paul Clenaghan.
SydneyConnect Image: Paul Clenaghan, ​​Program Director for Homeless and Rough Sleepers

Paul Clenaghan (pictured) has a crucial role.

As Sydney Local Health District’s newly appointed Program Director for Homeless and Rough Sleepers, he’s leading a team that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness.

“Having access to safe and secure housing is a basic human right and critical to the health and wellbeing,” he said.

“Our District, in collaboration with our partners, is committed to improving the health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness, and those at risk of homelessness.

“I’m focussed on building our capacity to deliver person-centred, integrated care to these vulnerable population groups,” he said.

This week is Homelessness Week, which aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness, provide information about the importance of housing and educate communities on how they can make a difference.

The national peak body for homelessness in Australia, Homelessness Australia, estimates there are more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night across the country.

Data shows people experiencing homelessness, or those at risk of homelessness, have higher rates of chronic diseases and multi-morbidities; poorer access to diagnosis, treatment and care; and poorer access to primary and preventative care.

This includes people who live in boarding houses, with more than 40 per cent of the state’s boarding houses located in the District.

The District supports the NSW Government’s target to halve the number of people sleeping rough across NSW by 2025.

This year, its annual state wide street count of people sleeping rough indicated there were fewer people seen sleeping on the streets in Local Government Areas within our District.

“But, there is more to do. Our continued focus will be on providing support and care for people sleeping rough and delivering effective early intervention and prevention strategies,” Paul said.

The District’s detailed approach is outlined in the Intersectoral Homeless Health Strategy 2020-2025.

It’s a joint initiative alongside South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, St Vincent’s Health Network, Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network, Department of Communities and Justice - Sydney, South Eastern Sydney and Northern Sydney District and City of Sydney.

The District also offers staff education about the early intervention actions healthcare workers can take to identify and assist people who may be experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness.

The District will also continue to develop the relationships established during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when it worked in partnership to provide vaccinations, manage outbreaks in boarding houses and secure accommodation for many homeless people.