Sharing and caring the key

Stable One's Trevor Ingamells and Jenny Willetts, Anchor Housing and Support Services' Jay Church, Michelle Duncan from Anchor, and house painter Danny Sharp.

People who’ve experienced homelessness will mentor others who are sleeping rough, in crisis accommodation or at-risk of losing the roof over their head.

Lilydale not-for-profit group Anchor is running the Peer Champion program, which will receive funding through Yarra Ranges Council’s 2019 Grants for Community Program.

Anchor Housing and Support Services manager Jay Church said the program would share knowledge and feedback with other local homeless support groups like Stable One Shelter, The Salvos and Holy Fools to tap into issues and provide better local options.

“We don’t have crisis facilities here in the Yarra Ranges and people are connected to their community and want to stay closer to their supports,” she said.

“Access to services is a big issue, so it’s great to have something happening in Lilydale to help meet some of the needs in the Yarra Valley.

“We would like this program to act as a feedback mechanism so we can support the system and educate the community about the reality of being homeless.”

Ms Church said the peer education and support model had changed how mental health services operated and were provided.

“The champions or mentors with the lived experience are key to the program working,” she said.

“Their input is invaluable. Without it we don’t know if service delivery is hitting the target.

“This model encourages working together, not working for or telling people what to do.”

House painter Danny Sharp knows what it’s like to be homeless.

He knows what’s it’s like to have someone with the same experience there to coach him through the situation and let him know it won’t be forever.

“I like the mentor concept and it worked for me with drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems,” Mr Sharp said.

“I’m nine years sober and clean and I still have three of my mentors around.

“It’s really important to have a mentor, whether it’s addiction or homelessness.”

Mr Sharp now helps younger men facing homelessness to gain skills and earn money through his painting business.

“People gave me a go when I needed it the most so that’s what I do now,” he said.

Michael Rhynsburger lost his home after a car accident left him with an acquired brain injury.

“Since the accident in 1997, I lost my house,” he said.

“From there, the world is a blur.

“I have looked out for other people on the street after going through it myself.

“I’d like to see some activities organised for homeless people with other organisations, to work on social skills for people to do normal things like fishing at Lillydale Lake.”

Stable One chairman Trevor Ingamells said housing was just one part of the journey to finding accommodation.

“Unless you have people to support you, it’s tough,” he said.

“Being a mentor might involve a phone call or going to have a chat with the person and encouraging them, or just asking ‘how are you going?’.”