Over the last 12 months, Justice Connect has seen the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on people experiencing or at risk of homelessness across Victoria. Despite moving to a ‘COVID normal’ or ‘recovery phase’, rising pressures related to the housing and cost of living crises have created a new cohort of ‘future homeless’ and financially insecure, while also pushing vulnerable people housed during COVID-19 back into homelessness.
Thanks to the strength of Justice Connect’s embedded community partnerships and colocations through our Under One Roof project, we have been able to responsively adapt and grow our services in the last 12 months. Through this collaborative model, we have delivered a combination of intensive legal and social work assistance to Victorians with complex needs who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
Demand for legal support through our Under One Roof project has continued to rise, with 290 new legal enquiries this year (June 2022 – May 2023), a 97% increase since COVID-19 started. Since the project commenced in 2015, we have seen an incredible 368% increase in legal enquiries. Access to Justice Connect’s integrated criminal law help has also increased, with our senior criminal lawyer providing high-intensity assistance through 138 new client files. Justice Connect’s Homeless Persons’ Liaison Officer also provided tailored, integrated social work support to 117 people with 448 non-legal issues (up by 50% from the previous year), which were holistically addressed alongside their legal needs. To meet the increase in demand, we adapted and expanded our service model to become hybrid, with both in-person and digital engagement, improving accessibility and flexibly meeting client needs.
The increase in demand reflects the long-term strength of our embedded partnerships with Launch Housing, Sacred Heart Mission – Journey to Social Inclusion and Greenlight, and cohealth, which enabled us to provide homeless or at-risk Victorians with seamless, remote access to legal services, including during COVID-19 and through the recovery phase.