Cost of Homelessness ‘Staggering’
24 October 2012 at 10:27 am
A study into the cost of homelessness in Australia has revealed the ‘staggering’ costs to the community of up to $5.5 million per person in health, legal and custodial services.
The Lifecourse Institutional Costs of Homelessness for Vulnerable Groups study led by Professor Eileen Baldry and researchers from the University of New South Wales followed the lives of 11 people and found that between them, they had cost State and Commonwealth Governments almost $22 million.
The report said one young woman who first came into contact with criminal justice and human services agencies at the of 12 had cost more than $5.5 million in police, juvenile justice, welfare, housing, health and legal aid services by the time she turned 21.
The lowest cost for any of the individuals in the study was $960,000.
The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor, said: “These are truly staggering figures and these costs are still ongoing.”
“To tackle homelessness, we have to understand what makes some people vulnerable and what delivers long term results.”
Of the $22 million, $14 million was associated with 'control' agencies such as police, corrective services, juvenile justice, and courts and $8 million was for support costs including housing, welfare payments, health and disability services.
“This study highlights the importance of early intervention for children and young people to prevent the human and economic costs later in life, something that our historic White Paper on Homelessness identified in 2008,” O’Connor said.
“The majority of people studied experienced significant disadvantage and vulnerability in their youth, and for several individuals from early childhood.
“The lack of early intervention for most of the people surveyed ultimately raised costs to government because of the cost of courts and corrective services.
“The research tells us that we need to intervene early to provide care and support to children when they need it, to prevent the human and economic costs later in life.
“The research further underscores the importance of the Government’s goal to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020.
“This Government has invested an unprecedented $20 billion in housing and homelessness services and programs since coming to office.
“We’ve also been working with States and Territories, business, charities and the community through the $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.”
Mr Murphy said this research highlights the importance of the work of organisations such as the Barnardos Auburn Children’s Family Centre.
The research will be available for download from 12pm today from the Australian Homelessness Clearinghouse.