The Cost of Addressing Homelessness – A Responsibility for All
21 January 2014 at 10:21 am
The onus for funding homelessness initiatives should not be placed solely on government but shared with corporates, philanthropists and the wider community who all standing to benefit argues Jo Swift, CEO of Not for Profit, Kids Under Cover.
Last week we were pleased to see the release of the Council to Homeless Persons report outlining its proposal for a Permanent Supportive Housing program to create safe and secure housing for the more than 1000 people currently sleeping rough in Victoria.
Based on models successfully applied in the US and Canada, the Council’s proposal to the State Government purports to eradicate homelessness by 2024 through the creation of 100 new homes each year at a cost of $143 million, accompanied by a $216 million program to offer a mixture of supplementary programs and services that will effectively reduce the risk of anyone being in a position where they have to sleep rough.
We support the Council in its vision for a Victoria free of homelessness and have no reason to doubt the costs it puts forward to achieve this.
By addressing the causes and effects of homelessness in all its forms, we can tackle the personal issues it creates at an individual level, and relieve the burden it places on the wider community in terms of increased demand on the health, justice and other mainstream services.
From Kids Under Cover’s perspective, greater investment in addressing the various and complex causes of homelessness among young people, particularly in providing support to overcome issues such as drug and alcohol abuse and to re-engage with family and education, would have a profound effect on reducing the risk of a lifetime of homelessness.
Where we believe further consideration is required is in regard to the program’s model of funding.
Calling on the State Government to commit nearly $400 million over the next decade is out with the capacity of any government, let alone at a state level.
Homelessness is the responsibility of each and every one of us and the time has long passed where the onus for dealing with the issue can be pointed solely at government.
Just as we all share the burden of homelessness, we all stand to share the benefits of a homelessness-free Victoria and so we as a community must all play our role in funding programs that help to prevent homelessness occurring and recurring.
It is for that reason that we need to adopt a more creative approach that shares the weight of responsibility for funding vital services among government, business, philanthropy and the community.
While government would still be expected to make the largest financial commitment to the programs, the incentives for others to contribute significantly to their successful implementation are manifold.
For large corporates, the opportunity to develop greater staff engagement programs that contribute to society and for philanthropists the ample tax concessions gained from supporting homelessness-oriented initiatives each exemplify the incentives for greater action in this space.
For the wider Victorian society, it is a question of social pride. We have a moral obligation as beneficiaries of all that is good in our society to act to strengthen the fabric of our communities.
Contributing to a Victoria free of homelessness will help to create a healthier, happier and more inclusive state, enhancing the liveability and future prosperity for all.
About the author: Jo Swift is the CEO of of Kids Under Cover (KUC) – a Not for Profit organisation that works to prevent youth homelessness by building homes and providing scholarships and mentors to young people at risk of becoming homeless and susceptible to civic disengagement.