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Finding ways to care for the people we don’t see

The issue of homelessness among older people is an issue of growing concern, to HammondCare and society generally. But for one HammondCare staff member, it’s a passion.

As a kid, Thomas Kramer spent a fair bit of time hanging around Hammondville, where HammondCare has its roots and still has a key presence today.

Hammondville was the pioneer suburb where Bob Hammond first took on the issue of homelessness during the Great Depression, offering land to destitute families to make a fresh start.

Thomas is so familiar with the place because his Mum Theresa worked there in the early 90s developing and implementing HammondCare’s now well-known dementia care model.

As an adult, Thomas has worked with HammondCare himself, recently as a Facility Manager at HammondCare’s North Turramurra home and now in a project management role overseeing the development of new residential services.

But when he’s not busy managing new services, he’s reconnecting with the issue of homelessness, and is helping HammondCare become more aware of the needs of homeless people, especially older people.

Not content to do this through arms-length research, last year, Thomas headed out onto the streets of Woolloomooloo in the early hours of the morning to talk with people sleeping rough, as part of Registry Week. He asked people about their health issues, backgrounds and housing requirements, so planners and healthcare providers can tailor responses specific to each individuals needs.

Thomas Kramer with a resident at North Turramurra

Then in late February he again put aside a good night’s sleep so that he could volunteer for the City of Sydney’s biannual Street Count. The Street Count aims to collect accurate and up-to-date information about the number of people sleeping rough in the local area. People occupying beds in temporary shelters and homelessness hostels are also counted. 

“The thing that strikes me most from these experiences is how much homelessness is a hidden issue,” Thomas said.

“We might see people around the city during the day who look like they are doing it tough, but we usually don’t make the connection that they might be sleeping rough that night.”

Apart from a personal commitment to being more engaged with this significant social issue, Thomas’s experiences are also helping to fuel a growing response from HammondCare to older people’s homelessness.

Last year HammondCare contributed to the City of Sydney’s discussion paper on housing issues and drew considerable media coverage of its call for solutions to the provision of affordable housing.

Many of HammondCare’s services receive referrals to assist people who have been homeless or are at risk of homelessness. Further specific responses can be expected in the future.

In the meantime, Thomas enjoyed wandering the streets long after his bed time and meeting people who are often invisible in the rush of city life.

“It was great to actually be advised by people with a lived experience of homelessness who were also assisting with the Street Count – the community spirit amongst us all was amazing.”

HammondCare’s housing issues submission

City of Sydney Street Count

RSSHealth and Aged Care Blog

Research Report 2016