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Cost of Homelessness ‘Staggering’

24 October 2012 at 10:27 am
Staff Reporter
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.

Staff Reporter | 24 October 2012 at 10:27 am


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.

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  • Anonymous says:

    In the article the Federal Housing Minister, Brendan O’Connor, highlights the role that the Commonwealth has played through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. The NPAH has been a fantastic source of funding for many existing and new organisations and has made a real difference to the lives of numerous people. It is important to note that this agreement expires next year, and that a new one has not been signed by the state, territory, and federal governments. It is also worth noting that the forward estimates in the federal Budget do not have any funds listed against the NPAH after the end of the current financial year.

  • Banjo says:

    I represent a group of Disability Support Pensioners who want nothing else from the government than the right to live quietly in a home in other countries where the dollar goes a lot further.

    As the "rules" and legislation changes to make this harder and harder for us the government can be assured that we will endeavour to cost them as much as possible.

  • Anonymous says:

    My comments on the article and report and maybe you have more information to flesh out the answers. With regard to the article statistics, it would be good to see them in perspective;

    a) What is the cost of health, policing, welfare to the rest of the population thas does not end up as part of the homeless statistics?

    b) Clearly many people are employed in the various systems supporting the homeless. This money could be better employed providing proper support to the disadvantaged as I am sure the research points out. If the systems are not needed the police, judges and welfare workers and jails would have less work so they would need to be retrained and deployed somewhere else.

    c) Average citizen costs the government lots of money – health eg tobacco smoking campaign by government is partly motivated by cost of health services to smokers and anti- drinking and violence costs the government lots of money to manage. Many of the people who smoke and drink are supported by government services – so a figure for us would also be a good instead of focus once again on how much the homeless cost the system

    d) Maybe a figure of how much the system costs the homeless in loss of livelihoods, despair and hopelessness would be good to calculate.

    e) Not all homeless have started in Australia as youth so maybe we should look at a breakdown of migrants, and age etc – many people dont adjust to the system in Australia and maybe they are not given enough support.

    f) As a not for profit website I assume you realise these things but some commentary would be good- as per the developing world lots of people don’t wish to receive aid better jobs and proper support to manage whatever the issues were which caused them to drop out of the system

    g) I used to do a lot of work with the homeless and the reasons for homelessness were so diverse – this should be reflected in the media and reports.We all too often label one homeless person as criminal and hopeless where as lots of them are not so. Many in my experience have temporary homelessness and others never received help in the crisis they faced. Too many stories to label them as one. The very low welfare payments even contribute to homelessness – how can you if there is noone to offer a bed and food manage on $250 per week if you are entitled to it that is and if you know how to apply for it etc. Too complicated to be lumped into one box and then be labelled as a problem to society.

    Thanks for the article. I saw it in the paper. Maybe your journalists could write a balanced response…the cost of homelessness to each individual and family is maybe is more important to consider…most homelessness I have seen is men so that is interesting in the light of the stresses in the article. Men talking about adult issues that caused them to end up on the street is different to talking about children….often if you talk to them they had businesses, etc or marrigaes that fell apart…not issues as a child. Diversity we need to break the figures down and present to the public not just the homeless are a burden to us…….

    This is my limited experience…I am sure you work with people who know more and could flesh out this issue and bring it to the heart and mind of the public.

  • Anonymous says:

    I work for a non-profit organisation as a support-worker for a homeless men’s lodge.
    The main problem of these men are that they have had abusive fathers or absent fathers.
    There has been no role modelling on what it is to be a man. They are lost and turn to drugs,alcohol and gambling as a sort of self medication. Many of them are perpetrators of domestic violence against their partners.
    I’ve worked out that it costs $800 a week approximately to provide basic needs, services for each tenant to stay for the maximum 12 week stay. There are six beds so six tenants. We charge $80 per week, and if they pay that would come off the $800. It is funded by Dept. Child Protection. Even if we had no tenants it would still cost $600 per week to provide the facility.
    The mental health issues are in place before the addictions. We have frequent flyers that turn up every year. We work on the N.P.A.H and the A.H.A program. We do a good job with what we have and have had some success with clients in getting them housed. Some run up massive rent arrears with Dept. Housing. The repairs to D.O.H homes can cost up to $35,000 with damage done to walls and floors etc.

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