Homeless Project a Circuit Breaker - Report
26 August 2014 at 3:04 pm
A new approach to tackling homelessness has managed to keep a roof over 90 per cent of participants after the first two years, a new Not for Profit report has found.
Mission Australia’s philanthropically funded Michaels’s Intensive Supported Housing Accord (MISHA) Project was a Housing First initiative run in Western Sydney, providing 74 men who had struggled with years of homelessness with immediate access to long-term housing, intensive support and case management for a period of two years.
The final report into MISHA has found it provided a circuit breaker for the men who had spent many years living on the streets or in unstable housing situations.
In addition to the tenancy results, the study revealed improved labour force participation among the men, reduced mental health disorders and higher levels of social contact than when the project commenced.
Mission Australia Chief Executive Officer Catherine Yeomans said the report into the program also found that costs associated with the use of health and justice services were more than halved, delivering an annual saving to government of more than $8000 per person each year.
The overall financial savings to Government attributed to the MISHA Project were estimated at close to a million dollars over the two years of the project.
“By giving these men immediate access to housing and the right mix of intensive support services, we have been able to stop a lifetime cycle of homelessness. Prior to the MISHA Project, most of these men had been sleeping rough, couch surfing and relying on crisis accommodation, often dating back to their adolescence.
“A third of the men had their first experience of homelessness before they turned 18, and another 20 per cent had first experienced homelessness between the ages of 18-24,” Yeomans said.
“They all had struggled with significant issues such as poor mental and physical health, substance misuse, relationship breakdown, unemployment, imprisonment and serious trauma. With many of the men now in their 40s, 50s and 60s, having been through years of entrenched disadvantage and social isolation, it is a remarkable result that the majority of participants have now settled into a real home at last.”
Yeomans said the economic argument behind the new approach to chronic homelessness was abundantly clear.
“Throughout the MISHA Project we have seen growing evidence that the Housing First with case management approach to homelessness saves money. The final results provide absolute certainty that this is the case.
“The provision of secure housing, combined with wrap-around support services, saw a massive drop in the number of nights spent in hospitals, mental health facilities or drug and alcohol centres,” she said.
“Their access to regular medical and mental health supports reduced the likelihood of crisis situations. The men were also living more stable lives, with fewer visits from justice officers, less interaction with police on the streets and less time spent in detention or prison facilities. The improved health and stability among these men is not only good for their own lives, but for the whole community. And in crude dollars and cents, it provides significant savings to government.”
Yeomans said the economic analysis of the study shows if a similar program were to be implemented by Government, the estimated savings would make delivery of the program at least cost neutral over two years – and if cost savings were sustained for longer it could create significant long-term savings for the public purse.
“If we are going to meet the nation’s goal of offering every rough sleeper accommodation by 2020, we need to invest in more programs like MISHA. The success of the tenancy support provided once the men in this project were housed shows this approach can help prevent more people becoming homeless.
“But the provision of more social and affordable housing is an essential part of overcoming the problem,” she said.
The majority of the MISHA participants were accommodated in social and community housing funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Social Housing Initiative (SHI). Yeomans said the SHI is now finished and many housing-first initiatives are reaching capacity.
“As the Federal, State and Territory Governments move toward discussions on the future of national agreements on housing and homelessness, this study shows more funding for affordable and social housing is crucial to meet the growing demand, alongside the need for programs to supports people to maintain their housing,” she said.
Mission Australia’s full report can be found here.