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Social Impact Investment to Break the Cycle of Homelessness


17 August 2018 at 5:06 pm
Maggie Coggan
A prominent Australian charity is hoping to “break the cycle of homelessness” for 180 people in a critical state of homelessness over the next five years, through Victoria’s first social impact investment (SII).


Maggie Coggan | 17 August 2018 at 5:06 pm


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Social Impact Investment to Break the Cycle of Homelessness
17 August 2018 at 5:06 pm

A prominent Australian charity is hoping to “break the cycle of homelessness” for 180 people in a critical state of homelessness over the next five years, through Victoria’s first social impact investment (SII).

The SII will see an expansion of Sacred Heart Mission’s (SHM) housing project, Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI), which has been run as a pilot from 2009 to 2012.

The project resulted in 85 per cent of people being housed after three years, in comparison to the 41 per cent who received short term help.

SHM has partnered with government and philanthropic investors, working on an outcome-basis based on health costs and the number of people permanently housed.

General manager of SHM, Catherine Harris, told Pro Bono News she was “absolutely confident” the outcomes will be met, due to previous testing of the program.

“We’ve proven through our pilot and through the version of J2SI we’re running at the moment that this is a more effective way to get people housed and to keep them housed, and a more effective way of reducing the cost of their health troubles,” Harris said.

She said it was important there was a long term connection “to stabilise their housing and health” and to help them integrate back into their community to encourage independence.

She added that the effectiveness of the program was due to the long-term support that was offered, which often doesn’t receive funding.

“Normally government funds homelessness services to work with someone for three months, and that just doesn’t cut it for the client groups that we’re targeting,” Harris said.

“These are people that have had significant lifetimes of trauma and disadvantage and they’ve generally got mental health issues and drug and alcohol issues.”

Harris said even though J2SI has “proven to be successful”, engaging other sources of funding was a “clever way” to test out the program.

“Because it’s such a change to the way that this type of service is funded, they can bring in philanthropy and investors into the program to share the risk,” she said.

Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallis, said it was a Victorian-first for the government to be “unlocking philanthropic funds” to address some of the most “pressing issues facing our society”.

“A partnership like this is about getting on with the job of delivering for Victorians sleeping rough,” Pallis said.

SHM did face challenges securing the partnership however, and noted that negotiating such a “complex finance model” was “no easy feat”.

Harris said the challenge lay in getting people to “understand the nature of the transaction”, and the benefits of long term investing.

“It’s showing that philanthropy can actually use their money, not as just a handout, but also to enable programs like this to happen,” she said.

“We want to see the economies of scale and the success of the program to be expanded around Australia, that’s our vision.”   


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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