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Ozanam house: Melbourne’s new $47 million homeless shelter

Source: Media and Communications Office and VincentCare
Melbourne is now home to Australia’s largest and most advanced homeless shelter. Victoria’s 25,000 people experiencing homelessness, including almost 400 rough sleepers in the city and inner suburbs, can access quicker, more comprehensive and more effective assistance, with the opening of VincentCare’s new Ozanam House, the single biggest investment in homelessness accommodation and support ever in Australia.

The $47 million centre in North Melbourne has a homelessness resource centre that will cater for up to 250 people a day, offering a range of drop-in health services, including Victoria’s only homelessness-specific dentist; a tech hub, where people can recharge phones and use free wi-fi and computers; café style meals; amenities such as showers, laundry and short-term storage; and support including case management and personal and financial counselling.

Dedicated caseworkers help people find and access any necessary assistance and services.

With 134 short, medium and long-term rooms and apartments, it is Australia’s largest homelessness accommodation centre.

Mr Pawson said VincentCare had spent three years participating in research studies and trials, visiting and examining every major homelessness centre internationally and around Australia and consulting leading experts before coming up with its unique Homelessness Recovery model and redeveloping its North Melbourne site.
Further, Ozanam House was designed through consultation with clients.

All 134 rooms have ensuites and are lockable, and to foster a sense of calm, the centre has large windows with lots of natural light, warm colours and timber panelling. Client feedback around noise levels led to the use sound reduction materials.

‘Homelessness in Victoria and Australia is a serious health and social emergency, which is why we are unveiling the most comprehensive response ever seen in this country,’ says CEO of VincentCare, Quinn Pawson. ‘The new Ozanam House will transform the response to homelessness in Australia.’

‘This new approach will allow us to assist more people than ever before. We will support people to make lasting and sustainable changes to their lives, whether that be accessing training and education, re-connecting with family and community, improving their health or finding secure housing.’

For the first time, the new centre will cater for women, providing a safe and welcoming environment regardless of gender.

‘No matter who you are, no matter how you came to be experiencing homelessness, no matter what you need, Ozanam House will provide support without judgement’, Mr Pawson said.

Mr Pawson said the opening of the new Ozanam House was a tribute to the members of the St Vincent de Paul Society, who had supported Ozanam House since opening the original “night shelter” on the site in the 1950s.

‘It is also a product of Melbourne’s compassion and resolve to do better by people experiencing homelessness, with philanthropic organisations, corporates and government coming together to support VincentCare in delivering this ambitious project.’

Victorian Housing Minister Richard Wynne toured the facility before the opening, commenting, ‘This is really the future of homeless intervention going forward, this is a spectacular building and the residents who will be living here deserve the best,’ he said.

Episcopal Vicar for Social Services Fr Joe Caddy blessed the newly opened facility.

According to Mr Pawson, the benchmark in designing the centre was, ‘would we want to live here? If we could answer yes to that question, then I think we got it about right.’

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