Western Sydney’s compassionate crusaders: Homeless Mental Health Team transforms lives

Photo: Homeless Mental Health team winning Quality Award 2023 for ‘Transforming Patient Experience’. (Suman Chhetri pictured centre)

Since its inception in 2020, Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD), Homeless Persons Mental Health Team, has provided mental health support to people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of being homeless.

This has resulted in a reduction in hospitalisations, more engagement with mental services & treatment and consumers have secured accommodation and employment.  

The impact of this initiative is nothing short of transformative for the homeless population in western Sydney.

WSLHD’s, Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC), Suman Chhetri, who set-up the Homeless Persons Mental Health Team who set-up the Homeless Persons Mental Health Team along with Dr. Cameron Armstrong (Consultant Psychiatrist) said the aim is to support the vulnerable population living in the Western Sydney LHD (Blacktown, Cumberland Council, Parramatta LGA and the Hills Shire) in their mental health recovery journey.

“Western Sydney has grown to become a major hub for different service providers and as the homeless population increases in the region and our team has supported consumers with different cultural backgrounds which mainly include Aboriginal, Refugees, Migrant and CALD communities,” he said.

With “no wrong door approach” Suman said the team also supports international students through to people seeking asylum.

“We’re advocates for the homeless population in the WSLHD region by addressing community stigma and upholding the fundamental right of all people to access mental health services.

“We’ve seen the service build respectful, therapeutic relationships with the homeless population, acknowledging that without stable accommodation homeless population are more vulnerable, more likely to develop serious mental illness, and less likely to receive adequate care than the general population, and advocate that one of the core foundations of satisfactory mental health management is safe, stable and appropriate accommodation.”

Throughout the period in which consumers engaged with the Homeless Persons Mental Health Team, general demographic data was monitored and collected by staff, in a safe and unidentified manner, to track and upkeep the standard of care and performance outcomes for the team.

Consumers who are homeless, with mental health problems, are provided short-term case coordination with the aim of stabilising their mental health and advocating for them to be re-housed with NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) housing and supported with employment opportunities.

For example, the team was able to assist three consumers to return to their home country by closely working embassy, International Organisation of Migration (IOM), Parramatta Mission and Uniting Care.

Suman said mental health and homelessness are strongly associated to each other.

“Consumers who have mental health issues are at high risk of deterioration and missing follow up in the community when they are discharged.

A main aim of team is to reduce homelessness caused by mental health issues and in turn to reduce hospital presentations.”

Since the implementation of Homeless Persons Mental health Team, the team has been able to provide support and follow up consumers with mental health issues, empowering them to sustain their tenancy, secure employment and live independently in the community.

“These changes are scalable as team has seen significant number of consumers who are homeless and supported to secure long term accommodation with stability in their mental health.”

The Homeless Persons Mental Health Team won WSLHD’s 2023 Quality Award for ‘Transforming Patient Experience’.

October 2023 is Mental Health Month. 

For more information and for mental health support head here