I was having a chat last night with Liz Dawson who is working hard to get a Common Ground project up and running in Canberra.
Common Ground was started back in the early 90s in New York to create affordable, supportive and attractive accommodation for homeless people and those on low incomes. Its philosophy is based on “respectful and supportive relationships”, providing integrated support services on-site that work to assist those in the most extreme need.
There are a number of Common Ground projects around Australia, including one in Adelaide, and a new project launched in Sydney back in August last year. The Sydney Common Ground Advisory Group is made up of the The Mercy Foundation, the City of Sydney, BCS Lifecare and KPMG. It’s a good example of how government, non-government organisations and the business community can work together to help achieve community outcomes. Liz is lobbying government and business hard here in the ACT to create a similar project.
And the reality is that the Common Ground approach works – treating people with dignity and providing an integrated and supportive environment is getting results. The original New York Common Ground project has developed over 2,000 accommodation units since 1990, proving that if you can get people into permanent housing with structured services, then drug & alcohol dependency, mental health issues and other problems can be more easily addressed. Add to that a lower cost than crisis accommodation, and you have a strong evidence-based policy foundation that delivers positive social outcomes.
I’m excited about getting involved with the Common Ground project in Canberra and I hope that over the next year we can drum up strong support across Government, business, NGOs and the community.