Online Homelessness Services Portal

A strategic initiative to establish a No Wrong Door approach to service delivery and to make it easier for people who are experiencing homelessness to access help and support.

Background

As part of All Paths Lead to a Home: Western Australia’s 10-year Strategy on Homelessness 2020-2030, the Department of Communities is developing an Online Homelessness Services Portal that will make it easier for people who are experiencing homelessness to access accommodation and other services in Western Australia.

The Portal will maintain real time data on available beds and supports across a wide range of service providers and will be a tool for people to securely manage and share their own confidential information. The Portal will support improved referral pathways to secure the most effective response, and make it quicker and easier to support people who are experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.

The Portal is crucial infrastructure for a No Wrong Door approach to service delivery. Consistent with the No Wrong Door blueprint, the Portal will introduce two information technology platforms: a Digital ‘Front Door’ and a One Story Database, incorporating agreed assessment and referral protocols.

If you would like further information about the Online Homelessness Services Portal, please contact the Office of Homelessness at homelessness@communities.wa.gov.au.

Project status

In December 2019, the State Government announced funding for the design and development of an Online Homelessness Services Portal.

During the first half of 2020, the Department of Communities engaged the Centre for Social Impact to complete a six-month co-design process with the homelessness sector. The team defined what a No Wrong Door approach to homelessness service delivery looks like and developed an overview of the features required within an Online Homelessness Services Portal to enable this approach.

In early November 2020, Communities conducted a workshop with the No Wrong Door co-design group to define the functional IT requirements for the Portal.  Members of the community services sector were invited to review the draft IT requirements and provide feedback. 

In early March 2021, Communities initiated a procurement process to secure an appropriate IT platform developer, releasing a Request for Tender to develop and implement the Online Homelessness Services Portal based on the finalised requirements.

After a rigorous evaluation process, Communities has awarded the development contract to Infoxchange, who submitted an offer in partnership with Anglicare WA, the Innovation Unit and Anthologie.

Development of the Portal will commence immediately with engagement and consultation with the homelessness sector. The Portal design will consider the existing operational practices and priorities used across the sector to identify and secure the optimal response for an individual or family experiencing homelessness.

Frequently Asked Questions about the project.

Stakeholder engagement update

August 2022

The initial research and discovery phase of the project concluded in early June 2022. Through this phase, Innovation Unit completed two rounds of interviews with service users and service providers including in-depth conversations with 24 individuals across different user groups.

Service provider interviews were held with STAY Geraldton – Short Term Accommodation for Youth, Royal Perth Hospital homeless health team, Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital social work team, 55 Central, Zonta House and St Bart’s.

In order to capture research insights and illustrate the needs of users, the consortium project team has developed the following artefacts:

  • a set of user personas for both service seekers and service providers;
  • user journeys to show the experience of each persona using the Portal (including service seeker scenarios of both self-service and as a supported navigation with the aid of a service provider); and,
  • a ‘blueprint’ of the service offered by the Portal, which captures all the elements (e.g. tasks, people, interactions, and processes) that are needed to make it work.

These ‘artefacts’ contain information that underpins the design of the Portal and will be used in the next phase of the project which includes the development of the first prototype.

The project’s  ‘design team’ established in April 2022, has met on four occasions. This group has reviewed the research insights, design principles, and ‘artefacts’.   

The Lived Experience Advisory Group is made up of eight individuals who have come on board to share their experiences of seeking accommodation to help shape and inform the design of the portal.

This group has played a critical role, informing and validating the design principles that underpin the design of the Portal and more recently helping the project consortium solve some tricky design challenges that will help in the next phase of the project. The project consortium will be working with the Department of Communities to incorporate the Common Assessment Tool into the Portal.

The project consortium will develop the low fidelity prototype and conduct user testing.

A sector event was held on 24 August 2022 for metropolitan stakeholders to view and provide feedback on the Portal’s design. It was also an opportunity to discuss how service providers will be able to be use and access the Portal, and how the integration with the Specialist Homelessness Information Platform (SHIP) will work.

May 2022

Recent project activities have been targeted at engaging the broad services sector but also, importantly the end users of the portal. End users include those seeking accommodation due to homelessness or being at risk of homelessness, and service providers who support referrals or provide accommodation.

The Innovation Unit, as a member of the consortium project team responsible for engaging stakeholders in design activities, has undertaken the following:

  • Four observations carried out at Entrypoint Perth, Tranby Day Centre (Uniting WA), St Bartholomew’s House Lime Street and Passages Youth Engagement Hub to understand the current experience of accessing accommodation by service users and the current roles and processes used by service providers.
  • An online workshop for the broader sector on 26 April attended by 57 people from a range of organisations and service types who are involved in the homelessness services system. Representation was varied including accommodation providers, day centres, justice, health, family and domestic violence service providers and local and state government agencies. The workshop explored the hopes and fears of the sector and asked participants to comment on two potential user journeys drawn from the No Wrong Door Report (2020).
  • A Service Provider Design Workshop held on 10 May involving 25 service provider representatives from across the State who nominated to be part of the deeper conversation to inform the portal development.
  • A first round of interviews is underway with people who have a lived experience of seeking accommodation in an emergency.
  • A second round of interviews is scheduled for later in May 2022. These interviews will target a diverse group of people to ensure the portal is informed by the range of experiences that exist.

Alongside the one-off design activities, the project will retain a consistent group of members for the duration of the portal design and build, representing all key stakeholder groups for the project. This ‘design team’ includes service provider representatives Niall Rhatigan (Wungening Aboriginal Corporation), Niamh Kiely (St Vincent de Paul), and Elisha Evans (Broome Youth and Family Hub), who were selected from 30 expressions of interest received. The Department of Communities, Lived Experience Representatives, and the project team are also involved in the portal design and development process.

A separate Lived Experience Advisory Group has also been established to ensure the voices of those accessing services are prioritised throughout the whole project, providing regular opportunities for scrutiny of the Portal design and providing feedback.

Further sector engagement to discuss specific elements of the portal and test protoypes will occur as needed and the project team will reach out to the sector at these times.

Should you be supporting someone to access accommodation who might be interested in being part of the project and stakeholder engagement as a lived experience member, please email: nina.ulyett@anglicarewa.org.au.

How to contribute

We want to invite you to be involved in the design of the portal, particularly if you are:

  • playing a role in supporting people to access services and accommodation;
  • providing accommodation for people experiencing homelessness (whether or not funded by the Department of Communities); or
  • experiencing homelessness or have recent experience of homelessness.

There are a number of opportunities to be involved in the design of the Online Homelessness Services Portal for both service providers and those with lived experience.

For feedback and enquiries about the project or if you would like further information about how to get involved in the Portal development, please contact the Office of Homelessness at the Department of Communities at homelessness@communities.wa.gov.au.

Page reviewed 2 November 2022