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Housing first program beats targets

6 February 2023 at 12:19 pm
Danielle Kutchel
As well as housing, the program provides wrap-around support to participants.

Danielle Kutchel | 6 February 2023 at 12:19 pm


Housing first program beats targets
6 February 2023 at 12:19 pm

As well as housing, the program provides wrap-around support to participants.

A Victorian-based housing first program has outperformed its targets for the third year in a row.

In 2022, Sacred Heart Mission’s Journey to Social Inclusion program (J2SI) saw 90 per cent of those who started the program two, three or four years ago maintain stable housing.

Use of hospital bed days have decreased by 60 per cent compared to their use in the year before participants joined the program.

J2SI, which was first piloted in 2009, uses a housing first approach as well as three years of intensive wrap-around support for participants. It is funded via a Social Impact Investment funding structure, with backing from Sacred Heart Mission, the Victorian government, philanthropists and an investor as a Partnership Addressing Disadvantage (PAD). Payments are made if the program meets specific outcomes.

See more: Social impact investment to break the cycle of homelessness

In 2022, Sacred Heart Mission received six outcome payments; five at the ‘outperform’ level and one ‘above target’ under the PAD. This brings the total outcome payments from 2020-2022 to eleven at the ‘outperform’ level and one ‘above target’.

So far, J2SI has helped 180 Victorians experiencing long-term homelessness, with the first cohort completing the program in July 2021.

Housing first

The J2SI service model includes five elements:

  • Assertive case management and service coordination
  • Housing access and sustaining tenancies
  • Trauma-informed practice
  • Building skills for inclusion
  • Fostering independence

At its heart, the program aims to end homelessness through a relationship-based approach. The central premise is that of the housing first model: that if people can sustain housing, they have a solid foundation from which to improve other areas of their lives.

From there, participants are provided with support and case management in areas of need, including mental health and wellbeing, drug and alcohol issues, skills development and increasing their connection with the community.

It is currently in its third phase, with improvements based on what was learned in the first two phases.

See more: How an innovative, evidence-based initiative in Melbourne reduced long-term homelessness

Leaving a legacy

Chris Stolz, chair of Sacred Heart Mission’s board, paid tribute to former Sacred Heart Mission CEO Cathy Humphrey, who was a key architect of J2SI.

“Cathy was fundamental in the development and implementation of J2SI, from the beginning of the pilot and two randomised control trials right through to the current phases of J2SI funded through SII and Payment by Results (PBR) contracts,” he said. 

“It is because of Cathy’s vision and drive to end homelessness in Victoria that J2SI is so successful and has become part of the fabric of Sacred Heart Mission’s approach and service offering.”

Humphrey said she was “proud to leave the legacy of J2SI”.

“We know that by providing safe and stable housing and wrap-around support from a dedicated case manager, people experiencing long-term homelessness can achieve positive improvements in relation to their physical and mental health, substance use and employment. J2SI improves lives and saves money; it therefore makes sense to scale evidenced-based programs that are achieving exceptional results,” she said.

“I look forward to seeing the J2SI approach supporting more people to end their homelessness for good across Australia.”

The program received funding in 2021 from the Department of Treasury and Finance to support another 120 people for three years.

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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