Information for homelessness workers in Melbourne's north and west

Overview of North and West Homelessness Service System

Homelessness services in Melbourne's north and west have been working together since 2008 to establish a coordinated service system response for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. The result is a system that is better coordinated, more accessible and more equitable.


Access to homelessness resources in Melbourne's north and west is, for the most part, coordinated by five services (Access Points Services) and one youth specific access point service that are funded for: 

  • Initial assessment and planning - undertaking general assessments (either in person or over the phone) of an individual or households’ housing and support needs and personal vulnerability. Support options are discussed with clients and, where possible, immediate assistance of a limited nature is provided.
  • Prioritisation, best-matching and referral to the resources of the HSS -maintaining prioritised lists of all households in need of further assistance from the local HSS. As accommodation or support becomes available, clients are best-matched and referred to each vacancy. 

The remaining programs are funded as Specialist Homelessness Services to assist people to prevent or end the experience of homelessness. This assistance may include:

  • crisis accommodation and support, such as that provided by a refuge
  • Interim response 2/short term assistance: time limited, targeted support to assist people to either divert away from homelessness or to reduce their crisis while they are awaiting the support and accommodation that they need
  • medium term case-managed support, including a variety of support models that are generally provided on an outreach basis
  • family reconciliation for young people who may be appropriately assisted to return home
  • capacity building to assist individuals or households to access and maintain permanent housing 
  • brokerage.
The only housing managed by the homelessness sector is:
  • Transitional housing tenancy management - overseeing the provision and maintenance of medium-term accommodation in which clients enter into a tenancy agreement and are subject to the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act (1997). These properties give clients a stable base from which to work with a support provider to improve their overall wellbeing and pursue permanent housing options.
  • Foyer models - medium term accommodation with limited onsite support for young people, who are prepared to engage in education, employment and training. 

What is the LASN?

Local Area Service Network's (LASNs) are structures created to assist the Homelessness Networks around Victoria to  provide a regional mechanism for homelessness, social housing & family violence providers to meet regularly to plan and develop coordinated homelessness responses that make the best possible use of the resources at hand.

Every homelessness funded service in an area is a member of the LASN. 

The Northern LASN has 25 member agencies, managing approximately 80 homelessness programs across Melbournes North East and Hume Moreland cathcments.

TheWestern LASN has 18 member agencies, also managing approximately 80 homelessness programs, operating in Melbourne's west and Brimbank and Melton areas. 

Attached are the Terms of Reference for the Western LASN.

What is Opening Doors?

Opening Doors is a framework of principles and practices that underpin homelessness practice across Victoria, including consistent approaches to client assessment, referral, resource allocation and coordination across the Victorian Homelessness Service System.

Its broad objective is to produce more timely, coordinated and effective access to the service system for clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and to provide a more coordinated, client centred response from the homelessness service system.

The Opening Doors Framework incorporates the following features:

• A consumer focussed and strengths based approach
• Equity of access to the resources of the homelessness service system
• Support for skilled workers with training, supervision and efficient tools
• Collaboration and partnerships between agencies and the DHS
• Reasonable care to address the risks faced by each person who is homeless
• Maximising the use of available homelessness resources.

In the Opening Doors model, the homelessness system is streamlined and simplified enabling access to a broader range of resources to clients and greater transparency and equity of access to those resources.

Opening Doors brings together homelessness providers, through the establishment of Local Area Service Networks (LASNs), to develop a shared approach to assessment and referral processes, resource allocation and service system planning within their own catchments. Through LASNs homelessness service providers are able to define and provide a coordinated homelessness service system response. Please scroll down the page for more information about the LASN.

The Framework articulates the need for fewer, clearly identifiable access/entry points to the service system and for the development of a service system response that can ‘hold’ the client and assist the client to navigate the service system.

These clearly identifiable Access Points are responsible for providing indivduals/households who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with timely information at their first point of contact. This includes honest and transparent information about the types of resources available, processes for accessing them and the likelihood of being able to access various resources.


The principle eligibility criterion for assistance from the NWMR homelessness service system is the current or imminent experience of housing crisis, regardless of an individual or household’s area of origin or income status.
Available resources are best-matched to those awaiting assistance, taking into account the extent of a client’s housing and support needs, and personal vulnerability.

Currently, demand for homelessness assistance greatly exceeds the accommodation and support capacity of the regional homelessness service system.


Individuals or households who are in need of homelessness assistance should contact one of the region’s five Access Point services for assessment, emergency assistance, prioritisation and referral. Access Point services are responsible for:

  • undertaking an initial assessment of the housing and support needs, and level of personal vulnerability, of any individual/households seeking the assistance of the homelessness service system – assessments can either be in person or on the telephone.
  • referring eligible individuals/households to transitional housing and homelessness support services;
  • providing limited assistance to those individuals/households awaiting assistance who are assessed as being at greatest risk and for whom there is not an immediate available support vacancy;
  • maintaining prioritisation lists of individuals/households awaiting homelessness assistance.
The attached Manual guides the coordinated practice of homelessness agencies in the Northern and Western Metropolitan Homelessness Networks.

Guidelines for Cross Regional Referrals

The attached Guidelines outline the process for referring people who are homeless to access/entry points in regions across Victoria.

NWMR Housing & Support Partnership Agreement

This document outlines the roles and responsibilities of Tenancy Workers and Homelessness Support Workers who are supporting tenants of transitional housing properties.

Statewide Prison Exits Protocols

The purpose of this agreement is to enhance collaborative working relationships between the housing and homelessness Service System (HSS) and the Corrections System to improve the response to people at risk of homelessness when exiting Prison.

This document outlines referral arrangements for people who are exiting prison, who are seeking homelessness assistance.

Youth Justice/Homelessness Service System Protocols

The purpose of this agreement is to enhance collaborative working relationships between the housing and homelessness Service System (HSS) and the Youth Justice System to improve the response to young people at risk of homelessness when exiting Youth Justice centres (YJC).

This Statewide Protocol outlines arrangements for young people leaving Youth Justice Centres who are seeking access to homeelessness services.

NW LASN Data Reports

The NW LASN in partnership with the NW DHS Community Housing Unit produce quarterly Data Reports which aim to examine issues of demand and available resources, levels of need in terms of housing, support and the personal vulnerability of those people presenting for assistance.

These Data Reports are a critical tool for the NW LASN in examining levels of homelessness regionally as well as trends, gaps and barriers. They are used to think strategically, plan responses and make the best possible use of the resources that are available. It is clear from these reports that demand continually and dramatically outweighs the NW HSS's capacity to respond.

Click here to view or download the May 2011 - May 2012 Comparison Data Report:

Click here to view or download the March 2012 NW LASN Data Report:

Consumer Participation

Homelessness services in the North West region want to hear consumer's ideas about how they can provide better services. They have developed a Poster to promote a new database they are trailling and are encouraging consumer's to be involved! The database will be a list of people who have accessed homelessness services and want to help to improve them.

During November 2012, 222 people from across the region participated in the first North West Local Area Service Network (LASN) Annual Consumer System Survey to  provide feedback about the service system and what we do well. This included getting ideas from consumers on how can we improve the homeless service system.

The LASN's will be running surveys again in a years’ time to see if we have done better and to reassess how consumers feel about the work we do!

For more information visit the Opening Doors Consumer Participation page of this website.

N&W LASN Consumer Participation Working Group

Local homelessness services are committed to hearing consumer perspectives about the work that they do. Consumers ideas help agencies to deliver better services to people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness.

The North and West Metropolitan Region LASN Consumer Feedback Working Group was established to model good practice in relation to consumer feedback and participation processes for homelessness services, to develop mechanisms to channel consumer perspectives into LASN work, and to seek consumers’ views on the regional implementation of the Opening Doors Framework.

Click here to find out more about the N&W LASN Consumer Participation Working Group.

Consumer Feedback and Consumer Register

Local homelessness services are committed to hearing consumers perspectives about the work that they do. Consumer's ideas help agencies to deliver better services to people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness. The following poster has been developed by the NW LASN to highlight the feedback already received and the associated actions that have been established to respond to it.

NW LASN Terms of Reference

To view or download a copy of the NW LASN Terms of Reference please click here:

Innovation and Improvement Processes and Guidelines

These Innovation and Improvement Processes and Guidelines are aimed at assisting the NW LASN to focus on continual improvement in the development and implementation of the homelessness service system by:

  • Providing guidelines which assist the NW LASN to identify and resolve systemic issues that arise in the development and implementation of the model,
  • providing a mechanism to record practice and structural issues raised by NW LASN member agencies and external stakeholders in relation to the functioning of the homelessness service system,
  • outlining the steps to be taken to ensure that issues raised are referred to the appropriate forum for consideration/action,
  • assisting the NW LASN to develop a consistent approach to policy and practice by providing the NW LASN with regular reports about the range of issues raised and the responses made to them,
  • assisting the NW LASN to identify and promote areas of innovation within the homelessness service system.

Homelessness Services Guidelines and Conditions of Funding

Since the introduction of the Victorian Homelessness Strategy (VHS) in 2000, significant work has been undertaken at local, regional and statewide levels to improve assistance to people who are homeless through:

  • joined-up housing pathways initiatives – fostering strengthened program partnerships throughout the Department of Human Services (DHS) and across government
  • quality improvement of service responses
  • service system resourcing and infrastructure projects

Guidelines documents are designed to assist funded agencies to deliver services and manage business in accordance with program objectives and funding conditions. Until now homelessness assistance services have been required to work with three sets of program guidelines.

This integrated set of program guidelines is expected to be used by all homelessness assistance program funded services and is designed to further streamline homelessness program management and operational practice;

  • eliminate duplication in former SAAP, THM and HEF guidelines
  • introduce new tools and frameworks as homelessness program operational requirements
  • establish common definitions across homelessness program functions
  • introduce a user friendly format that is easily updated and distributed

These guidelines replace the following documents:

  • Transitional Housing Management Program Guidelines and Conditions of Funding May 2003;
  • Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) - Program Framework and Funding Guidelines 2005-2006
  • Housing Establishment Fund Guidelines and Conditions of Funding June 2003.
  • Homelessness Service Guidelines and Conditions of Funding 2006 - 2012

To view or download a copy of the HomelessnessServices Guidelines and Conditions of Funding please click here:

Submission on the future of social housing in Victoria - July 2012

If you would like to read or download the joint submission by the NW LASN and the NWHN in response to the Victorian Government's Discussion Paper - Pathways to a fair and equitable social housing system please click here: