Hanover was founded in 1964 as one of the first specialist homeless support agencies in Melbourne. Our name is taken from Hanover Street in Fitzroy, where the organisation was first based.
Hanover’s visionary founders were clear that it was to be an agency different from other homelessness service providers. It was to be an organisation driven by evidence and one which recognised its clients as active citizens, with dignity, aspirations, talents and strengths. It was also to be an agency which led change.
Reflecting the social and policy movements under which it was formed, Hanover was established with no structural links to governments, churches or institutions and incorporated as a non-profit company managed by a board of directors. Initially its primary focus was support for homeless men in the inner city. Over the past 45 years this scope has broadened significantly and our work now covers Victorians of all ages and life stages.
Research has always been at the core of Hanover’s work, evidence of this can be found in the following extract from the findings of the Interim Committee which established Hanover in 1964:
Much exact information is required as a basis for planning further work with the men. The methods of the agency should be regarded as experimental, and results evaluated and reported. Clients case records would be compiled so as to allow elucidation of common patterns, and special study might be made of such subjects as excessive drinking and employment difficulties.
In 1969, under the leadership of Bob U’Ren, Hanover began a campaign against the closure of Gordon House, at that time a 400 bed commercial common lodging house for homeless men.
The early 1970s also saw a small number of women beginning to use homeless services set up for men. In 1972 Hanover was incorporated under the Companies Act, and our charter was changed to include women and families – widening the range of services provided. In 1972 management of Gordon House was taken over by Hanover until it was decommissioned in 1976.
In 1976 Hanover opened the new Gordon House at 20 Lorimer Street in Melbourne. New Gordon House was a revolutionary development, providing clients experiencing homelessness with a higher standard of accommodation than was previously available, and plenty of individual freedom.
The 1980s saw a sustained focus on providing services that addressed the specific needs of people experiencing homelessness, including the establishment of the joint Commonwealth and State Government funded Supported Accomodation Assistance Program. This led to a period of expansion of support and programs delivered by Hanover.
Under new leadership in the early 1990s, Hanover was restructured, and funding from the State and Federal Governments enabled the redevelopment of Gordon House. During this time specific services were developed targeting the particular needs of families, single women and young adults. At the same time, Hanover’s research focus was strengthened, and Michael Horn was appointed as Hanover Research Manager in 1991.
In the late 1990s, drug use amongst residents at Melbourne’s major Crisis Accomodation Centres had reached epidemic levels, prompting Hanover to spearhead a major trial of new strategies to provide support to clients using drugs. Funded by the Victorian Government, the Homeless Drug Dependency Program was a revolutionary shift in supporting people experiencing homelessness out of drug dependency.
In recent years Hanover has added Employment Services to the suite of services provided, helping people who are unemployed build their skills and get back into the workforce. With education an increasing focus for Hanover, a range of innovative programs are delivered across sites supporting clients to engage in education and training.