Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Breaking the cycle of homelessness through intensive support

A new project has found that tailored, intensive, long-term support has helped to change the lives of those experiencing chronic homelessness.

The Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor, today launched the two-year progress report of Sacred Heart Mission’s three-year project – Journey to Social Inclusion.

The project provided intense, targeted support to 40 people who had either slept rough continuously for more than 12 months or were periodically homeless for at least three years.

It provided participants with fast access to housing, responding to their specific mental health needs and focused on building their skills to reconnect with the community, including through employment.

Participants were then compared with a similar group using existing homelessness services.

“Two years into this three-year project, 31 of the participants were in independent housing, compared with just over half of those using existing services,” Mr O’Connor said.

“They were more likely to remain in stable housing and were less stressed or anxious than people using traditional homelessness services.

“Importantly, almost half of them were either employed, in training, or actively looking for work, and their use of emergency psychiatric care and hospital stays had dropped significantly.

“These are promising results, and I congratulate Sacred Heart Mission for their work – and for their initiative to evaluate whether the service is working or not.

“Since 2009, the Federal Government has been working in partnership with the States and Territories to better coordinate homelessness services, and this $1.1 billion partnership is making a big difference for vulnerable Australians.

“The homelessness funding partnership is due to expire at the end of this financial year.

“Last month, I offered my State and Territory counterparts interim funding to keep services open for another 12 months while we negotiate a new long-term partnership.

“They agreed in principle, but as yet I am still waiting on them to come back with firm offers.

“With Christmas fast approaching, it’s time we had some certainty for vulnerable Australians and the dedicated, compassionate people who work to make their lives better.

“The Gillard Government has made tackling homelessness a national priority, and we have a strong commitment to halving the rate of homelessness by 2020.

“We have invested an unprecedented $20 billion in housing and homelessness services and programs since 2007.

“We are building 21,000 new social housing homes, 16,000 have families living in them and more than 10,000 of these individuals and families were homeless prior to being housed thanks to the Labor Government’s investment.

“The Government welcomes new initiatives and evidence about how to break the cycle of homelessness—which are valuable in helping us build more effective policies and programs—and look forward to seeing the long-term results of this project.”

The project’s evaluation is done by RMIT University, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. The participants’ progress will be assessed at the end of the three-year pilot, and again a year after it finishes.