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The Power of Knowing People’s Names in Ending Rough Sleeping

It’s a few simple steps that have a powerful impact: go out to meet each person sleeping rough in our community. Ask them their name. Learn who they are and what they need. Then, bring services together to help them find permanent housing.  

Known as the By-Name List, this person-centered approach is a key part of the Advance to Zero method for ending rough sleeping homelessness.  

When someone is added to the By-Name List by outreach and frontline staff in a local government area, each organisation working in that community then has the same understanding of that person’s needs. This forms the basis for coordination of the right support, resources, and monitoring until that person is housed. 

All this works toward a key goal: ‘functional zero’ homelessness. Functional zero is achieved when any experience of homelessness in the community is rare, brief, and once-off. To achieve this requires enough appropriate housing for people entering homelessness to rapidly move into, and support to remain there as long as they need. 

As George Hatvani from Launch Housing explains: “By-Name Lists mean we get a real time picture of what’s happening on the ground and the scale of it. We get to know everyone by name and understand their needs so we can provide an integrated service response. This allows us to work closely with each person to help them find and sustain housing. It enables us to focus on these highly vulnerable, highly marginalized people and go, ‘right, what are the system barriers and system gaps for them?’ ”  

Since Melbourne’s first By-Name List began in 2019, more than 500 people have been housed. We know this because of the service coordination made possible by the By-Name List in each Zero project across our city.  

These results are especially remarkable given that most people we meet through the By-Name List have experienced chronic homelessness for an average of 8 to 15 years. 

Today, 7 of Melbourne’s 31 local councils are onboard, each running their own By-Name List. As more councils join the movement, we’re building a near real-time view of the number, names and needs of people across our city who are sleeping rough, enabling the right supports to be wrapped around each person to connect them to the housing they need. While more affordable housing supply is the key, By-Name Lists open the door to zero rough sleeping across Melbourne. 


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From business leaders to your next-door neighbours, we're calling on every Melburnian to join the Melbourne Zero movement and help end homelessness in our city.