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Impact Investment Has Potential to End Youth Homelessness

5 October 2016 at 10:55 am
Ellie Cooper
Impact investment could end youth homelessness in New South Wales, according to the Mercy Foundation, which advocates for and supports innovative approaches to address the issue.

Ellie Cooper | 5 October 2016 at 10:55 am


Impact Investment Has Potential to End Youth Homelessness
5 October 2016 at 10:55 am

Impact investment could end youth homelessness in New South Wales, according to the Mercy Foundation, which advocates for and supports innovative approaches to address the issue.

Currently the NSW Government is developing a social impact bond, a type of impact investment model, to help reduce and prevent youth homelessness in the state, where 12,000 people under 25 present to specialist services each year.

While this figure represents a quarter of the homeless population, it’s believed the true number, including those couch surfing or now accessing services, is far higher.

The Mercy Foundation and the Social Impact Hub partnered to assist the government in researching the best program models for the bond.     

Their report, Impact Investing to Reduce and Prevent Youth Homelessness, was launched with a panel discussion between Tracy Howe from the NSW Council of Social Service, Elyse Sainty from Social Ventures Australia, Felicity Reynolds from the Mercy Foundation, and Kirrin Winning from the NSW Office of Social Impact Investment.

“There was a very positive feeling in the room about the potential for impact investing to help prevent or reduce youth homelessness,” Jessica Roth, founder and director of the Social Impact Hub, told Pro Bono Australia News.

“In fact, Felicity Reynolds actually spoke about ending youth homelessness – using the word ending rather than reducing – because it’s actually possible to end youth homelessness rather than just reduce it. That was very exciting.”

The report explored two potential programs to address youth homelessness.

“They are promising models for realising the New South Wales Government’s objective of preventing or reducing youth homelessness through an impact investment,” Roth said.

“One is Kids Under Cover and their studio housing model, which currently exists in Victoria but not in New South Wales, and so there’s the potential for them to expand into New South Wales using impact investment.

“The second one is the Foyer model, which has been proven internationally to be a very effective way to tackle youth homelessness. In New South Wales there is actually a bond in development that is based on the Foyer model.”

According to the report, the Foyer model accommodates young people for up to two years and provides access to psychological support and life skills training, with emphasis on education and employment.

It originated in France and the report also said it’s been widely successful in the UK. It’s distinct from other housing models in that housing is transitional and participation support programs is mandatory.

The Victorian Kids Under Cover model sees family relationships as fundamental to keeping young people at home. Through partnerships with community organisation, the program provides portable studio units to the parents and carers or young people put at risk by overcrowding, family breakdown and violence.

Roth said she hoped the case studies in the report would provide a strong framework for all stakeholders involved in the youth homelessness bond.

“We hope it will help service providers in the homelessness space decide if impact investment is appropriate for them,” she said.  

“We hope it will help inform government and ensure that the development of new impact investments is actually informed by the evidence. The majority of the report is focused on international impact investments and what we can actually learn from the international experience.

“We also hope it helps the development phase of the bonds that are currently underway.

“And finally we hope that it inspires new impact investments that can actually help or prevent youth homelessness.”

She said the need for innovative and evidence-based models to address social problems was growing.

“In this era of declining government expenditure there is a need for innovative forms of financing and bringing private investors in as part of an impact investment is not only an additional source of financing, but it also means that government is only paying for successful outcomes,” she said.

“This broader shift to outcomes-based solutions rather than government just funding activities is very exciting.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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