Journey to Social Inclusion - Homelessness Evaluation
6 December 2012 at 9:07 am
A new social inclusion project has found that tailored, intensive, long-term support can change the lives of Australians experiencing chronic homelessness.
The report reveals that breaking the cycle of chronic exclusion is possible but difficult and that policy makers must have realistic expectations about what services working with the long-term homeless can achieve.
The report analyses a pilot project by the Sacred Heart Mission in Victoria, called Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) – designed to break the cycle of long-term homelessness. The project provides intensive support for up to three years to assist people who are long-term homeless receive the range of services they need.
Participants were then compared with a similar group using existing homelessness services.
In the second of four reports evaluating the J2SI project, it documents the social outcomes and the economic costs and benefits from the first 24 months.
The report says that after 24 months the evidence shows a sustained improvement in the housing circumstances of the J2SI participants compared to those in the control group. “Critically, most (86%) have maintained their housing”.
“While the move to independent housing was difficult in the beginning, the high rate of housing retention suggests that most of the participants are developing the skills and confidence needed to keep their housing,” the report found.
The outcomes also reveal ongoing benefits in other areas of life for the J2SI participants including improvements in physical health and lower levels of stress and anxiety compared to the baseline results.
The report said that while only a small number are employed, nearly half of the J2SI participants are now actively looking for work.
Nonetheless, the report concluded that there are still challenges, indicating that there are limited changes in the participants’ drug using behaviour.
The report contains the first cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of a program working with the long-term homeless, revealing that “the initial investment is high but the long-term benefits are potentially significant”.
“The CBA shows that in the short-term (two years) the costs to government and society outweigh the benefits – for every dollar invested the savings are 0.24 cents and 0.35 cents respectively. However, the position is reversed over a 10 year time frame where for every dollar invested there is a saving of $2.03. finally, the results of our sensitivity analysis that adjusted for attrition suggest that the true short-term benefit for society lies between 0.35 (or a return of 35c for every dollar invested) and 1.46 (or a return of $1.46 for every dollar invested).
The report said “that breaking the cycle of chronic exclusion is possible but difficult and that policy makers must have realistic expectations about what services working with the long-term homeless can achieve".
The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Brendan O'Connor, launched the two-year progress report.
"Two years into this three-year project, 31 of the participants were in independent housing, compared with just over half of those using existing services," O'Connor said.
"The Government welcomes new initiatives and evidence about how to break the cycle of homelessness-which are valuable in helping us build more effective policies and programs-and look forward to seeing the long-term results of this project."
The project's evaluation was done by RMIT University, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.