Our Focus

Some of the current activities that the Mercy Foundation is undertaking in the field of homelessness include the following:

Mercy Foundation Grants to End Homelessness

In 2008 the Mercy Foundation introduced a grants program titled ‘Grants to end Homelessness’. This program funds initiatives that contribute to preventing and ending homelessness and contributing to a better understanding of ending or preventing homelessness. See our Grants section for more details and an expression of interest form.

The primary aim of this grants program is to encourage new and innovative ways of ending homelessness in Australia. We actively encourage robust and/or evidence based approaches that end (or substantially contribute to ending) homelessness for people involved in the project or program. Three examples of projects funded by the Mercy Foundation are:

Marist Youth Care (NSW) - Affordable Housing for Life (Long term housing and job skills for young people).
Homeground (Vic) - Not for Profit Real Estate Agency
Murwillumbah Community Centre (Rural NSW) - Accommodation Support Project (Housing and ongoing support).


Home in a Box

In 2012 the Mercy Foundation developed a new project, called 'Home in a Box'. This initiative is designed to provide formerly homeless people who are moving into housing (usually 'through 'Housing First' projects) with amny of the items needed to create a 'home'. No one who has been homeless for any length of time is able to keep many possessions. Home in Box provides good quality sheets, towels, kitchenware and other items that help people and families create a comfortable home. We believe that this type of project not only creates comfortable and warm living, but can help people sustain their housing. For more information about Home in a Box and our generous corporate supporters click here.


Vulnerability Index

Since 2010, the Mercy Foundation and other members of the ACGA have been actively supporting the use of the Vulnerability Index in Australia. Using a methodology developed by the 100khomes campaign in the US, there are now 7 cities/regions in Australia that have conducted a Registry Week.

The first Registry Week in Australia was conducted by Micah Projects in Brisbane in July 2010. In November 2010, the Mercy Foundation in partnership with NEAMI Way2Home conducted a Registry Week in inner city Sydney. A number of Sydney based NGOs assisted with this project. The presentation that was made at the end of that week can be viewed here.

The Mercy Foundation as well as Micah Projects Inc. has since been involved in directly working with organisations in other states and supporting Registry Weeks in Hobart, Perth and Western Sydney.

The importance of these projects has seen more than 1600 rough sleepers interviewed (with consent) and importnat outreach follow-up provided. It has also meant that a number of people have been able to access housing and have their homelessness ended.

A summary presentation on the use of the VI and Registry Week methodology was given by the Mercy Foundation and partner organisations at the 2012 National Homelessness Conference. For information about this important initative in Australia read the presentation here.


Going Home Staying Home - Reform of Homelessness Services in NSW

In July 2012 the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, the Hon Pru Goward announced 'Going Home Staying Home'. This is a program of reform of homelessness services in NSW. The initiative is being managed by Housing in NSW in conjunction with the Department of Community Services. The Mercy Foundation welcomed this important reform in NSW.

Felicity Reynolds, CEO of the Mercy Foundation, was invited to to be a member of the Panel of Experts to advise on the reform process. She also chaired the consultation held in the Nepean region in August 2013. Felicity is also be co-chairing the working group which is reviewing streamlined access to services.

The reform process involved consultations in all regions of the State. A consultation paper was developed and submissions invited on the context and content of the paper and the reform process. The government worked closely with the community on the initiative and has also established a Sector Reference Group as well as the Panel of Experts to advise on the reform.

Notes from the meetings of the Panel and the Sector Reference group are being made publicly available on the Going Home Staying Home website of HNSW. The link to this website, which includes the consultation paper, fact sheets and now the results of the reform process can be found here: Going Home Staying Home.

Health Care and Homelessness National Roundtable (2012)

This important forum was co-hosted by Micah projects, Mater Health and the Australian Common Ground Alliance in Brisbane in 2012. It highlighted a range of initiatives in the health and homelessness field. Importantly, the work that has been going on in the Australia using the Vulnerability Index.

The keynote speaker at the forum was Dr Jim O'Connell, founder of Boston Health Care for the Homeless. Not only is Dr O'Connell a highly respected physician working with homeless and formerly homeless people, it is his research upon which the Vulnerability Index is based.

Ending long term homelessness: Taking PSH to scale (2012)

In September 2012, the Mercy Foundation worked with ACGA members and the Council for Homeless Persons Australia to host in Melbourne a national forum, 'Ending Long Term Homelessness: Taking permanent supportive housing to scale'. The key note speaker was Nan Roman. Nan is the President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness in the USA. Ms Roman's remarks can be accessed here.

You can access the power point presentations below:

Project 40 (Western Sydney), Stephanie Brennan, Community Services Manager, Wentworth Community Housing.

Common Ground (Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane) – Lessons learned from across Australia. Felicity Reynolds, CEO Mercy Foundation and Heather Holst, A/CEO Homeground.

Wolloomooloo 90 lives 90 homes & Platform 70 (Inner Sydney) Liz Giles, Manager Homelessness Unit City of Sydney and Christina Hough, Project Manager, Bridge Housing.

Wintringham Specialist Aged Care (Victoria) – Bryan Lipmann, AM, CEO Wintringham.

Foyer – for young people (Perth) Ian Carter AM, CEO Anglicare.

Evaluating permanent supportive housing: Reflections on Elizabeth Street. Dr Shannon McDermott

The ACGA is grateful to the Australian Government's Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for funding to assist in the hosting of these events.

Common Ground in NSW

The Mercy Foundation was actively involved in a partnership activity to advocate for and help implement Common Ground supportive housing developments in NSW. For more information about the successful development and implementation of Common Ground Camperdown (in inner Sydney) see this page of our website.

Western Sydney 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness

Between 2009 and 2014 the Mercy Foundation worked closely with the Nepean/Blacktown region of western Sydney to develop a regional 'plan to end homelessness'. Based on successful planning models in the USA and Canada, these types of plans involve communities coming together - government agencies, NGOs and private businesses - to help solve homelessness in their local regions or areas.

Felicity Reynolds, CEO of the Mercy Foundation chaired the Nepean/Blacktown Regional Homelessness Taskforce from its launch in 2009 until she stepped down in 2014.

The Nepean/Blacktown Regional Homelessness Taskforce was established through the Nepean Campaign Against Homelessness to develop a long term strategic plan to reduce and ultimately to end homelessness in the region.

Now Chaired by a local buiness representative, the Taskforce inlcudes representatives from the four local councils (Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Penrith), state government departments, NGOs and businesses.

The Taskforce was launched by the then Minister for Housing and the Status of Women Hon Tanya Plibersek on 30 September 2009.

Project 40 - 'Housing First'

A key project that has been developed in the Nepean Region since 2009 is 'Project 40'. Auspiced by Wentworth Community Housing, supported by a number of western Sydney NGOs and funded by the NSW Government it has been working to provide a Housing First project for individuals and families who have experienced long term homelessness. It provides housing and ongoing support to assist people to sustain their housing. Click here to read an article from the Sydney Morning Herald about Project 40.

The Australian Common Ground Alliance

The Mercy Foundation was a founding member of the former Australian Common Ground Alliance (ACGA).

Common Ground is based on a very successful supportive ‘Housing First’ model that provides permanent housing and support to formerly homeless people in the USA. There are now Common Ground models in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart in Australia. The ACGA network advocated for and supported these Australian developments. Common Ground also advocated for the end of chronic homelessness through a range of initiatives as well as the provision of permanent supportive housing.

First National Supportive Housing Conference (2009)

The Mercy Foundation supported and helped organise the Australian Common Ground Alliance sponsored 'First National Supportive Housing Conference' in November 2009. Special guest speakers included Rosanne Haggerty (Founder and President of Common Ground USA) and Suzanne Wagner (previously from the Center for Urban Community Studies, NYC).

Foyer Foundation - for Young People

From 2009 to 2013 the CEO of the Mercy Foundation, Felicity Reynolds was a member of the Board of the Australian Foyer Foundation. This organisation is supporting the development of Foyers in Australia. It has close links with the UK Foyer Federation and aims to be a useful resource for organisations wanting to establish housing and services for young people using a Foyer approach.

Foyers, which were originally established in France after the Second World War to provide housing for young people who needed to access jobs or training outside their own local areas. Foyers became focal points of youth activity in townships and were a way by which young people could meet and socialise with other young people. The UK adopted the approach some years ago and adapted it for their own population of young people - with a focus on helping young people access training and jobs.

For information about the UK Foyer Federation click here.

The Australian Foyer Foundation website click here.