Health & Homelessness

The health impacts of homelessness

Over the last decade, there has been a compelling and growing body of evidence demonstrating that experiencing homelessness not only causes illness but that it can exacerbate pre- existing health issues to critical levels that are then often only addressed in a partial or fragmented way, especially for those community members who experience frequent and lengthy episodes of homelessness.

The health & homelessness interplay is commonly considered to operate on three levels;

“First, some health problems can cause a person to become homeless. For example, poor physical or mental health can reduce a person’s ability to find employment or earn an adequate income.

Second, some health problems are consequences of homelessness. These include depression, poor nutrition, poor dental health, substance abuse and mental health problems. According to recent studies, homeless people also experience significantly higher rates of death, disability and chronic illness than the general population.

Third, homelessness exacerbates and complicates the treatment of many health problems. Homeless people have significantly less access to health services than the broader population. Reasons for this may include financial hardship; lack of transportation to medical facilities; lack of identification or Medicare Card; and difficulty maintaining appointments or treatment regimes”

Services that can help

RDNS Homeless Persons Program (HPP)

The RDNS Homeless Persons Program (HPP) comprises a team of specialist community health nurses who work with and on behalf of individuals and groups experiencing homelessness.

The aims of the Homeless Persons Program are to provide holistic healthcare to individuals experiencing homelessness and to improve access of homeless people to general community services.

They work with other services to obtain healthcare that is accessible and relevant to the needs of the homeless and of a level equivalent to that received by the general community.

RDNS HPP helps by:

Providing contact at agencies visited by people experiencing homelessness

Actively outreaching to people in rooming houses, crisis accommodations, hotels, parks and on the street

Providing primary care, including health and social assessments, professional nursing care, counselling and active support, first aid, medication management, and follow up

Advocating on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness (individually and as a population group)

Promoting and maintaining health and preventing illness to individuals experiencing homelessness (individually and in groups)

Implementing collaborative programs between homeless people and other health services, including public hospitals

Providing education about homelessness to health professionals and community groups

To visit the RDNS HPP website please click here

If you would like further information about HPP please call on 1300 33 44 55

The Living Room

The Living Room is a Primary Health Service that provides free healthcare and support to improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, disadvantaged or marginalised, with complex healthcare needs. It provides free, confidential and non-judgmental support and focuses on harm minimisation and education.

The service is staffed by a team of community development workers, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals including a podiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse and nutritionist. The medical clinic is staffed by doctors and nurses who are available on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 1pm and 4pm.

For all other times, please call to make an appointment. (Please bring your Medicare card when you visit).

Opening hours:

Drop in open Monday to Friday from 1pm until 4pm.

All other times by appointment.

Address: 7-9 Hosier Lane, Melbourne 3000

Ph: (03) 9945 2100

If you would like to find out more about the Living Room please visit their webpage by clicking here

Young People's Health Service (YPHS)

The Young People's Health Service (YPHS) is run by The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Adolescent Health. The service is aimed at young people aged 12 - 24 who are experiencing homelessness and/or marginalisation.

It does not cost young people anything to access the service, and all young people are encouraged to drop in during clinic hours. Nurses, a counselor, a care co-ordinator, doctors and other health staff provide assessment, treatment, information and referral as needed.

How to contact YPHS:

Open: Monday - Friday, 11:30am-5pm at 19 King Street, Melbourne

Ph: (03) 9611 2411 or (03) 9611 2409

You can visit the YPHS website by clicking here

Homeless Youth Dual Diagnosis Initiative (HYDDI)

HYDDI is a service for staff who are working with young people experiencing homelessness and co-existing substance use issues and mental illness.

HYDDI aims to improve the outcomes for young people by:

  • Building the capacity of the homelessness sector to respond to the needs of young people, who are experiencing homelessness and have co-occurring mental health and substance use concerns.
  • Fostering ongoing and helpful partnerships between mental health, drug and alcohol and homelessness services.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

The term dual diagnosis is most commonly used to describe a person who is experiencing issues with both their mental health and substance use. This means substances both legal and illegal.

Dual diagnosis is more prevalent among homeless young people than the broader population of young people in Australia. Homelessness can potentially lead to young people experiencing mental health issues and problematic sub-stance use. These co-occurring issues may also lead to the young person becoming homeless. Whichever the case it is recognised that dual diagnosis has a significantly impact on young people’s ability to keep their lives on track and resolve homelessness.

HYDDI offers the following services to all homelessness services in the North-West region of Melbourne.

  • Primary consultation; Offering a confidential, specialist mental health and substance use assessment and brief interventions
  • Secondary consultation; advice on brief interventions and strategies
  • Information on referral for specialist treatment
  • Services co-ordination and clinical problem solving
  • Individual and group supervision on working with clients with a dual diagnosis of substance use and mental illness
  • Short term co-case management of clients with dual diagnosis
  • Training and education

How to refer: You can contact HYDDI directly on:

Northern area, mobile: 0409029102
or at the Hope Street office: 03 9380 1403

Western area, mobile: 0407019586
or at the Sunshine WRAP office: 03 9312 5357

Click here to view or download the HYDDI pamphlet:

Central City Community Health Service

The new Central City Health Service (CCCHS) at the Drill Hall is operated by Doutta Galla in partnership with a range health and support services, provides services for people living in or accessing the City of Melbourne who are experiencing homelessness, people who are at risk of homelessness, or living in low cost accommodation. All services are free of charge.

Three part-time Royal District Nursing Service Homeless Person’s Program Nurses and the homeless outreach programs of Doutta Galla Community Health are also based at the CCCHS.

Central City Community Health Service is open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday
and is at 20 Therry Street Melbourne
Phone: 1300 022 247 or 1300 0 CCCHS

All services are free to people who are experiencing homelessness, people who are at risk of homelessness, or living in low cost accommodation

Additional services and clinics will start operating in August 2012. Phone Brian Sardeson on 0407 831 989 or email on - for more information and a clinic timetable.

If you would like to find out more, visit the Central City Community Health Service web page by clicking here

Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS)

The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) was established in 1972 to address the specific medical needs of Victorian indigenous communities.

The organisation has expanded steadily over past 30 years to provide a comprehensive range of medical, dental and social services for the ATSI community.

Address: 186 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, 3065

Ph: 03 9419 3000


Opening hours:

Monday-Friday: 9am - 5pm
Saturday: 9.30am - 12.30pm
After Hours locum service: 132 660
Emergency only: 000

To visit the VAHS website please click

Australian College of Optometry

Eye Care on Low Incomes

The Australian College of Optometry (ACO) delivers high quality, low cost eye care services to the Victorian community through a network of clinics and practitioners in Melbourne and rural Victoria.

The Victorian Department of Health has funded the Victorian Eyecare Service (VES) since 1985 providing Victorian pensioners and Healthcare Card holders with access to low cost eye care and visual aids. Today the ACO provides over 75,000 services each year throughout Victoria.

The College employs over 30 full time staff optometrists and 60 sessional optometrists who contribute to the delivery of eye care services. In rural Victoria the ACO engages a network of over 150 privately practicing optometrists supporting and participating in the VES. The ACO provides general and specialist services so the most complex of patients can be seen at our clinics.

To be able to attend an ACO clinic you will need to be a permanent resident of Victoria who:

• holds a Pensioner Concession Card in your own name, or
• holds a Health Care Card in your own name, or is listed on a Health Care Card, for at least 6 months continuously

To find out more about clinic locations and opening times please visit the ACO website by clicking here

The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne

Anyone can receive emergency dental care through The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne. 

People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are eligible for "priority access"

General Eligibility

  • Young people aged 13 – 17 years who are health care or pensioner concession card holders or dependants of concession card holders
  • All children and young people up to 18 years of age, who are in out-of-home care provided by the Children Youth and Families Division of the Department of Human Services
  • All youth justice clients in custodial care, up to 18 years of age
  • People aged 18 years and over, who are health care or pensioner concession card holders or dependants of concession card holders
  • All refugees and asylum seekers

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are treated at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne

Priority Access

If you are eligible for public dental services, you may also have priority access to public dental care.

People who have priority access will be offered the next available appointment for general care and will not be placed on the general care wait list. Where you have denture care needs, you will be offered the next available appointment for denture care or placed on the priority denture list, where applicable.

The following groups have priority access to care:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Children (0-12 years) and young people
  • Homeless people and people at risk of homelessness
  • Pregnant women
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Registered clients of mental health and disability services, supported by a letter of recommendation from their case manager or staff of special developmental schools

If you meet any of the above criteria, tell the receptionist when you telephone to make an appointment that you are eligible for ‘priority access’.

Contact details

Emergency: 1300 360 054 

General enquiries: (03) 9341 1000 or 1800 833 039 (Country Call) 

Please call first to make an appointment and reduce your waiting time.

720 Swanston Street
Carlton VIC Australia 3053

Open hours:
Monday to Friday:
8:30am to 9:15pm

Weekends and public holidays:
9:00am to 9:15pm

You can visit the Royal Dental Hospital's website by clicking here 


Podiatrists can diagnose and treat many problems and disorders of the foot and lower leg. These include nail and skin disorders, injuries and infections and children's foot problems. Conditions such as diabetes and arthritis often have associated foot problems that may be assisted by a podiatrist.

The North Yarra Community Health Service provides podiatry services at their Carlton, Collingwood and Fitzroy Centres.

A special outreach service exists for homeless persons in the Collingwood and Fitzroy area.

Contact NYCHS

ph: (03) 9349 7333

ph: (03) 9411 4333

ph: (03) 9411 3555

You can view or download the NYCH services brochure here:

The Department of Health

The department’s core objective is to achieve the best health and wellbeing for all Victorians. This is accomplished through planning, policy development, funding and regulation of health service providers and activities which promote and protect Victorians’ health, including:

• health care services provided through the public hospital system, community health services, ambulance services, dental services and public mental health, drug and alcohol services

• residential and community care for older people, support and assistance to enable people to function independently in their own homes, positive ageing programs, healthy and active living and seniors card

• health promotion and protection through emergency management, public health and related preventative services, education and regulation

To find out more about the Department of Health please visit their website by clicking here


CBD Homelessness Health Access Protocol

Aim and Objectives of the CBD Homelessness Health Access Protocol

The Protocol aims to improve health service access to people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne’s CBD by assisting health and community services providers to:

• build better referral relationships, increasing communication and coordination of services between the community and health sectors;

• enhance referral practice informed by good practice;

• implement transparent policies that prioritise homeless people’s access to health services;

• support reorientation and innovation within health services to respond to the needs of homeless people;

• through the implementation of the Travelling Well initiative (see Appendix 1) identify possible increases in the number or type of primary health services to cater for the needs of homeless people within Melbourne’s CBD; 3 and

• strategically plan and advocate for service growth to funding bodies.

When should the CBD Homelessness Health Access Protocol be used?

The Protocol sets out the agreed good practice for encouraging and supporting
people experiencing homelessness to use primary health services when needed.

It encourages community service workers to engage with their clients and to undertake health service referrals.

It also provides workers with the necessary health service information and standard templates for written referral documentation if, and when, this is required.

Most importantly, the Protocol addresses the issue of obtaining “client consent” in a way that ensures that this policy itself is not a barrier to accessing health services.

To view or download a copy of the Protocol please click here:

For more information on the Protocol and more please visit the Inner North West Primary Care Partnership website by clicking here

You can also view or download a copy of the Health & Homelessness Protocol by clicking here: