The Haven Foundation is a Victorian Community Housing Provider that, in partnership with Mind Australia, provides long‑term housing, care and support for people living with severe and enduring mental illness. The program recognises that secure, affordable housing offering on‑site care and support along with family and carer involvement is a critical aspect of recovery for many people.
The program was established by the Haven Foundation (now part of Mind Australia) and has two sites, in South Yarra and Frankston. Five new sites—in Geelong, Laverton, Epping, Pakenham and Mooroopna—are expected to be completed in 2021.
The South Yarra site has space for 14 people and the Frankston site has space for 18 people. Each resident lives independently in their own apartment with kitchen, laundry and bathroom facilities and an outdoor area.
To join the program, a person must be eligible for social housing, be a National Disability Insurance Scheme participant, be aged over 18 years and have no dependents. They must have severe mental illness and an associated level of disability that cannot be met by alternative housing and support options.
Residents receive 24/7 on‑site support from qualified and experienced community mental health practitioners, including peer workers. Mind’s My Better Life Plan also supports residents to identify and achieve their goals of recovery. These services are funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme as Supported Independent Living. The Haven Foundation provides property management services, but rent is managed and collected via Housing Choices Australia.
Ms Elizabeth Byrne is a founding member of Haven. In 2005 she came together with other parents in a shared commitment to address the need for long‑term housing for people with enduring mental health conditions.
Our unique model of care incorporates the participation of residents, family/carers, support staff and volunteers as key partners in service planning, delivery, monitoring and evaluation.
In late 2016, the Haven Foundation recognised the need for all families to be involved in the on‑site activities and decision making of Haven South Yarra, and merged their managing committee with the local family group to become the Haven South Yarra Family Hub. Ms Byrne said there will be a Family Hub at each Haven Foundation site to help promote a safe place for families, carers and supporters to support each other with their shared challenges.
There will be a wealth of experience and skills brought to the Haven from the support staff, residents, family/carers and volunteers.
Ms Byrne said this mutual support helps to create a home and a community for residents, as well as hope, health and happiness.
An independent evaluation by Monash University in 2013 noted that the Haven South Yarra is a unique model offering certainty and stability of housing to people with severe mental illness. It concluded that tenants experienced a reduced need for acute psychiatric or residential rehabilitation care, greater participation in vocational or educational opportunities and improved their connections with carers and family members as well as members of the broader community.
Residents also said they valued the stability of their tenancy and the ability to personalise their space and use it as a base to enjoy community activities. These activities include tennis, a community garden and a coffee club. Residents said that they look forward to these regular social activities.
One resident of the Haven Frankston said being able to live independently but with support available when they needed it assisted them in their recovery.
There are group activities to participate in here at Haven, but the wonderful thing is that all the residents have their own space and choose what they want to take part in or what support they need—we all have the chance to actively work on our recovery alongside one another and Mind staff, which I’m finding so very helpful. I had never heard of supported independent living before, but I feel so fortunate to have been offered a place here.
Source: RCVMHS, Interview with Elizabeth Byrne, November 2020; The Haven Foundation, Our History, [accessed 22 October 2020]; Stuart Lee and others, Exploring the impact of housing security on recovery in people with severe mental illness Summary Report, 2013; The Haven Foundation, A Haven for Heather, [accessed 22 October 2020].
Photo credit: The Haven Foundation