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October 2014

Stefan Ady jpeg

Doorway Housing and Support Project participant Stefan Ady.

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St Vincent’s Chair of Psychiatry Professor David Castle.

Pilot program opens the door on a place participants can call home

Stefan Ady enjoys nothing more than inviting friends around to share a coffee in his comfortable home.

It’s a simple ritual that reminds him how far he’s come in reclaiming his independence and sense of security after a time of isolation and difficulty in his life.

Mr Ady is one of 59 who have taken part in the Doorway Housing and Support Project over the last three years.

Funded by the Department of Health, the pilot program was designed and delivered by Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria in partnership with St Vincent’s, Austin Health and Latrobe Regional Hospital and in collaboration with the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.

It is a practical program that supports people with a serious mental illness who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to find a suitable, affordable home on the private rental market, maintain their tenancy and develop life skills for the long term.

Participants work together with a dedicated Doorway worker to find a rental property, prepare tenancy applications, liaise with real estate agents and take out leases in their own names, thereby establishing their own rental histories.

‘It’s been a great pleasure to be involved with this unique and positive project,’ said St Vincent’s Chair of Psychiatry Professor David Castle.

‘We know that having stable accommodation is a core part of setting the framework for personal recovery for people with a mental illness.

‘Thanks to Doorway, we’re now seeing patients who had years of unstable accommodation finally being able to settle themselves somewhere, finally relieved of the constant worry associated with seeking a place to live.

‘The support of the Doorway workers has been instrumental in helping participants like Stefan use this opportunity to move on with their lives in a truly positive direction, including seeking work and expanding social connectedness,’ Professor Castle said.

‘I’ve definitely come a long way since I got my first property with the help of Doorway,’ said Mr Ady.

‘Since then, I’ve moved into another rental property that I got on my own.

‘It felt really good doing it all on my own.

‘I now feel I am like everybody else.

‘I have my own place, on equal terms and equal footing.

‘I have an address and a home to go to in the evening,’ Mr Ady said.

‘I can cook my own meals and I’m not different.

‘It’s a great feeling,’

Mr Ady’s fellow participants have also reported a greater sense of independence, self-respect and pride and they feel their lives have more meaning, as a direct result of having more stable and secure accommodation.

Their need for clinical mental health services has decreased significantly.

The mental health of one-third of current participants has improved to the point they no longer need support from their Area Mental Health Services.

President of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria Neville Sanders was also pleased with the positive results of the Doorway project.

‘We’ve been delighted at the response from landlords and we’re proud of the role estate agents, including property managers, have played, working alongside the Mental Illness Fellowship to give people with mental illness the opportunity to create a home.’

In recognition of the program’s success, the Victorian Government has provided further funding of $4.1 million for the program over the next four years.

For people like Mr Ady, this will mean life-changing assistance and opportunities.

‘I can honestly say that Doorway has really changed my life.

‘I may have a mental illness but I can now lead a normal life.

‘I hope many others in a similar situation will be able to do the same,’ Mr Ady said.