New Head of Homelessness Services inspired by the original Rev Bob Hammond vision

Peter Armstrong sees his role as HammondCare’s first Head of Homelessness Services as a return to the beginnings of the Christian charity in the 1930s.

Peter Armstrong Darlinghurst 580Mr Armstrong, appointed Residential Manager for the new HammondCare Darlinghurst aged care home last year, now has a bigger role to develop the organisation’s homelessness strategy across portfolios.

Speaking about his appointment, Mr Armstrong, 43, said he takes inspiration from Archdeacon RBS Hammond’s visionary rent-buy home program on land near Liverpool for families evicted from inner Sydney during the Great Depression. The program was the genesis of today’s HammondCare.

Bob Hammond Hammondville 1930s 580“For me it’s about going back to the grass roots. Bob Hammond was driven by the need to provide homes for desperate people facing homelessness,” Mr Armstrong said. “Now we are responding to the need today to help provide permanent homes for the elderly who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness and who have high care needs – it’s just a progression of the original dream.”

Mr Armstrong, a registered nurse with a background in rural and remote area health, indigenous health, mental health and addictions, joined HammondCare after a role at Mission Australia. While Hammondcare only began providing residential aged care to older homeless people earlier this year, Mr Armstrong believes the organisation is well positioned to become a sector leader.

“HammondCare is recognised as the sector leader in dementia care and I’d really like to see us become a leader in the area of aged homelessness too,” he said. “We’ve the ability to bring together the best of what is required as we’ve got the focus, size and influence in senior’s health and aged care to provide effective solutions for the elderly homeless.”

He said he and his team have received amazing support from HammondCare’s board, executive and enabling partners, together with St John’s Anglican Church, foundation and donors in making the home a reality.

HammondCare Darlinghurst, a 42-bed care home built at a cost of $25 million on land leased from St John’s Anglican Church, was a dramatic statement of intent when it was opened in March. Mr Armstrong said HammondCare’s reputation, desire to achieve this goal, the quality of building design and prominent location of the Darlinghurst home “really put us on the radar” in the homelessness services space and said feedback by those who have toured the home so far has been glowing.

The service has already developed a character all its own that distinguishes it from other homelessness focused residential aged care services. The model of care involves a harm minimisation approach that means there are fewer rules or restrictions for residents. For instance, residents can come and go subject to security arrangements to keep them and other residents and staff safe, and there is no blanket ban or arbitrary limits placed on the purchase of alcohol or cigarettes.

“Choices like these are what we each take for granted in our own homes, so in our approach effectively what we’ve sought to provide residents with is a large home in which we provide them with home care services, all the while providing them with the wraparound supports necessary for them to make these choices safely,” he said. “With that in mind, residents are able to negotiate with the staff in their apartment about their daily activities; what’s happening in their home, when they receive care, when they enjoy their meals, when they wake or sleep.”

In deciding to build Darlinghurst, HammondCare sought to learn from the experiences of other providers through engagement and research, which remains ongoing. An exploratory research study was conducted in 2019 to help HammondCare identify the needs of older people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and inform appropriate design features and evidence-based care models for the new service.

A formal evaluation of the service in junction with St Vincent's Hospital and the University of New South Wales is due mid 2021. Opportunities for further services are being explored.