Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

Therese Rein to be patron for homelessness services

The Australian Government today announced that Therese Rein has accepted the role as Patron of Common Ground Australia – a network of agencies seeking to deliver innovative homelessness services across the country.

Ms Rein, who will accompany the Prime Minister on his overseas visit to US, Europe and China today, will meet with the US Common Ground Board at their flagship headquarters in New York this Saturday.

Common Ground is an innovative way of housing rough sleepers. The ‘street-to-home’ initiative means homeless people are provided with their own apartments, enter into rental agreements and pay rent.

It is combined with individualised health, support and training employment services and has been running in the United States since 1990.

The Common Ground model is now recognised internationally and has won numerous international awards in the field of homelessness.

Ms Rein said: “It is important for homelessness to be addressed on an individual level. The work of Common Ground is so critical because it focuses on the whole person.”

Program founder Roseanne Haggerty brought the Common Ground model to Australia in 2006 when she was then advising the South Australian Government.

The Common Ground model relies on support from government, the not-for-profit sector as well as the property and finance industry.

Homeless people live alongside other low income groups in mixed-use residential facilities.

Ms Haggerty said: “We are honoured and thrilled that Ms Rein has committed to Common Ground Australia.

“The Board is delighted to be meeting with Ms Rein this Saturday and to be expanding our partners in other Australian States and Territories.”

Common Ground has already established itself in Adelaide by providing 39 units of accommodation for homeless and low income people.

A second Common Ground property is due to open in Adelaide later this year.

Plans are also advancing for Common Ground models in other States: Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania have recently hosted visits from Ms Haggerty.

Stephen Nash, CEO of Victorian agency HomeGround, said: “We need a forum to develop and promote new and national approaches to solving homelessness.

“Common Ground offers a whole of community approach to solving homelessness involving business, corporate philanthropy and government and Ms Rein will play a valuable role in bringing these key groups together and promoting this model for ending homelessness in Australia.”

Ms Rein has also indicated that while accompanying the Prime Minister abroad she will take the opportunity where possible to meet other organisations dealing with homelessness – as well as those addressing the particular challenges of young people with intellectual and other disabilities and those who are having difficulty with literacy and numeracy in school.