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New Report Shows Success of Groundbreaking Homeless Service

10 November 2009 at 12:49 pm
Staff Reporter
A report into a groundbreaking Sydney homeless service shows it has delivered improved accommodation, employment and goal-achievement outcomes, a reduction in the need for income support and all at a significantly lower cost per day than providing a bed in another institutional setting (eg: hospital or jail).

Staff Reporter | 10 November 2009 at 12:49 pm


New Report Shows Success of Groundbreaking Homeless Service
10 November 2009 at 12:49 pm

 The Icon for Exit report – an analysis of the outcomes of the Mission Australia Centre (MAC) in Sydney’s Surry Hills since it first opened in July 2005 – was recently launched by Tanya Plibersek, the Federal Minister for Housing, and Senator Mark Arbib, the Federal Minister for Employment Participation.


Described as the first service of its kind built in Australia, the MAC moves beyond traditional crisis accommodation to meet the needs of a new generation of homeless people. 


Rather than the short-term and ‘one-size fits all’ approach often associated with crisis shelters, the MAC specialises its care, encourages independent living, allows clients stays of up to three months and offers a range of services (eg: dental, GP, education, computer skills, counselling, employment) to help people back on their feet long-term. 


According to the report – which covers the period 2005-08 – the MAC’s results include:

  • Clients achieved 80% of their goals compared to 42% at the crisis shelter the MAC replaced (an important part of working with homeless clients is to set a goal, eg: to find independent accommodation, to beat drug addiction, etc, and work towards achieving it).
  • Of clients leaving the MAC there was a 10% decline in people returning to the streets and a 6% increase in those living in a house or flat. Studies show that of men leaving traditional crisis accommodation, around 18% simply move to another short-term shelter while almost 45% return to living on the streets or squat.
  • Following their time at MAC, there was a significant decline in the proportion of clients reliant on the Newstart Allowance – 58% down to 48% – and an increase in the proportion whose income came from wages/salary – from 7% to 14%.
  • 48% of MAC clients weren’t in the labour force before coming to the service, after leaving the centre this dropped to 36%.
  • Clients stay at the MAC for an average 68 days compared to the 1-3 days at the previous service. Longer stays mean better results.
  • MAC provides its full range of supports for only $154 a day per person. This is a significantly lower cost per day than providing a bed in another institutional setting (eg: hospital $600/pd or jail $200/pd).


Mission Australia’s CEO, Toby Hall, says the MAC’s results provided governments and other agencies with a successful model for developing future homeless services.


Hall says when they built the MAC in 2005 they based their plans on their own experiences, research among other agencies and what they saw working overseas making it a first for this country.


He says they now have the results that show the MAC approach works and agrees they still have much to do and there are challenges ahead, but the move towards more tailored and long-term support that encourages independent living is the way to get homeless people back on their feet.


He says importantly the MAC has developed into a community hub providing a large range of services – not only to its residents, but the entire inner city community.


Hall says the MAC’s success has only been possible through collaboration with the three levels of government,  peer organisations, and the generous support of individual and corporate partners.


He says the most exciting thing about these results is that they come at a time when both the Federal and NSW State Governments are considering their respective plans for tackling homelessness.


The Federal Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek, says the MAC – which she has visited several times as it is located in her electorate of Sydney – was setting a high standard for future service delivery.


She says the Rudd Government’s White Paper on Homelessness identifies the need for early intervention, targeted support and wrap-around services to help break the cycle of homelessness.


She says these types of services are exactly what we need if we are going to meet our ambitious goal to halve homelessness by 2020.


The report can be downloaded at



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