Uniting Ballarat's newest staff member is bringing a sense of calm and connection to clients at emotionally challenging times.
English Staffy Dyson has started his new role as a therapy dog in Uniting's Street 2 Home program in Ballarat.
The program provides support to people who are rough sleeping or have a long history of homelessness, linking them with crisis support, mental health, alcohol and drug programs, and medical and housing support services.
They are a lot more balanced and settled in their presentation and they end up leaving with a smile on their face.Chanelle Burns, Street 2 Home case coordinator
Dyson and his owner Chanelle Burns, who is a Street 2 Home case coordinator, completed therapy dog training in Melbourne last month in preparation for the new role.
"Clients of Street 2 Home often have significant mental health concerns and Dyson certainly lifts their spirits," Ms Burns said.
"I have noticed them being a lot calmer. If they come in and seem anxious or upset it helps them, calms them down and brings them back to some balance. They are a lot more balanced and settled in their presentation and they end up leaving with a smile on their face.
"There has been times that clients have opportunistically met him in reception waiting for their appointments. They might be quite anxious because it might be the first time they have ever had an appointment with a service like this and just sitting there and stroking him has been enough to deescalate their feelings."
The Street 2 Home team is currently working to support around 70 people in Ballarat and surrounding regions.
Street 2 Home program coordinator Adam Liversage said clients of the program received ongoing support after they were housed.
"We're a large team including mental health, alcohol and other drug workers who ensure that once rough sleepers are housed, they receive ongoing support," he said.
Uniting staff say the long-term goal is to extend Dyson's services to other programs.
"Our goal is to do some more training. At this stage he has done a six day foundation training. Beyond that we are looking at doing advanced training and master level and then you can tailor intervention specific for clients needs," Ms Burns said.
"There are a few training units I am really keen on doing. One is trauma informed and one is mental health that I think would really complement what we do here."
Homelessness Week is recognised across Australia this week with the theme 'Housing Ends Homelessness'.