Homeless Project Reveals Social and Cost Benefits
17 April 2012 at 10:35 am
A new program aimed at tackling homelessness among Sydney men has found that access to a range of health, education and social supports can help homeless people improve their well-being, social and economic participation and access to sustainable housing.
The Michael Project, run by Mission Australia but funded by a private donor, is a three year initiative which the Not for Profit says provides homeless men with quick access to a range of supports such as dental and mental health, personal grooming and hygiene in an effort to end their homelessness.
Mission Australia says that while thousands of men participated in the Michael Project, 106 were followed over the course of a year in what it has called the most extensive longitudinal research exercise involving homeless people so far undertaken and published in Australia.
The results of the research, which was led by Professor Paul Flatau of Murdoch University and the Centre for Social Impact and Dr Lucy Burns of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, showed that when participants entered the Michael Project, almost none were in secure, long-term housing. However, after 12 months, 42 per cent were in sustainable accommodation.
It was also revealed that 97 per cent of participants were in government-funded emergency accommodation at the start of the study. Of those, only 16 per cent remained in the accommodation at the end of the study.
According to the research, over the course of one year, the money spent by government on services such as ambulances, emergency department care, court and police costs decreased on average by $8,446 per person.
Mission Australia’s spokesperson, Eleri Morgan-Thomas, said that the Michael Project shows that it costs the public more to leave someone homeless than it does to help them.
“The Michael Project not only provides a new approach to supporting homeless people that should change the way we do things, but thanks to the cost-benefit analysis, we can prove what we’ve known intuitively for many years – that that the right kind of supports actually save us money,” Morgan-Thomas said.
“People who are homeless struggle to access mainstream health services, like GPs, dentists and psychologists, and as a result their complex needs are not met. That’s why they tend to finish up in expensive parts of the system like hospital emergency departments.
“If you supply homeless people with the services they need, you not only achieve better outcomes but you save money in the process.”
A report into The Michael Project’s success – The Michael Project, New Perspectives and Possibilities for Homeless Men was launched today at the Mission Australia Centre in Sydney.
Morgan-Thomas said that Mission Australia has already spoken to Government Ministers around the country about how the Michael Project can be used to improve the lives of thousands of people who are homeless.
“It’s only through introducing the lessons learned via initiatives such as the Michael Project that we’re going to reach the government’s 2020 goals of halving homelessness,” Morgan-Thomas said.