Pubdate: Mon, 16 Oct 2000
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 David Syme & Co Ltd
Contact:  250 Spencer Street, Melbourne, 3000, Australia
Author: Chloe Saltau, Social Policy Reporter


A new plan to tackle the dramatic rise in illicit drug use among Melbourne's
homeless will be introduced at three crisis accommodation centres around the

The $7.5 million initiative, to be announced by the State Government soon,
will link crisis shelters in North Melbourne, Southbank and West Melbourne
with detoxification and rehabilitation facilities.

The three-year trial is a key component of Labor's drug policy and aims to
lead homeless people with drug addictions into stable and secure

Spearheaded by Hanover Welfare Services, it represents a shift in the way
agencies assist the homeless and could help clean up the "public nuisance"
associated with injecting heroin use on the streets.

The trial will enable the Salvation Army to run a residential withdrawal
unit for homeless clients in Abbotsford, and help welfare agencies grappling
with high rates of injecting heroin use at their accommodation centres.

Ozanam House, run by St Vincent de Paul in North Melbourne, Hanover at
Southbank and the Salvation Army's Flagstaff Crisis Centre in West
Melbourne, will all be included in the trial.

It is estimated that more than a third of those who seek emergency shelter
in Melbourne are dependent on illicit drugs, and with the increase in heroin
abuse in recent years that figure is expected to grow to more than 50 per
cent by 2004.

Premier Steve Bracks said last week he considered the government's
unsuccessful bid to introduce supervised injecting rooms in Melbourne one of
his biggest disappointments since being elected to power, but foreshadowed a
concerted harm minimisation and rehabilitation agenda in their place.

The plan for homeless services, expected to be announced soon by Health
Minister John Thwaites, has been welcomed by all three welfare

Susan Campbell, chief executive of St Vincent de Paul in Victoria, said
agencies were no longer able to respond adequately to the serious needs of
homeless clients with drug and alcohol problems. "When people overdose and
die that has a terrible impact on the community," she said. "We are really
concerned to ensure that all of our staff have the very best training
possible and are able to respond to people who have drug problems on the

Hanover chief executive Tony Nicholson said homeless services could not
continue in their current form without more resources to combat heroin

He said helping the homeless out of addiction would go some way towards
clearing the streets of discarded syringes and other symbols of injecting
drug use.

A Salvation Army spokesman, John Dalziel, said it made sense to attach drug
treatment services to crisis centres, as it meant addiction could be treated
as soon as homeless people came into contact with welfare agencies.

"For a long time we have been saying this needs to happen," he said.
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