Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Housing and Homelessness Ministers to meet in Perth today

New research released ahead of today’s meeting of housing and homelessness ministers has highlighted the difficulty in accurately identifying what services exist for homeless Australians and whether they are effective or not.

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor said the Flinders University of South Australia study, Mapping and Reviewing Homelessness Programs, showed the challenges all levels of government faced in tackling homelessness.

The researchers set out to answer two questions – what programs exist to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and what does the evidence suggest works well for different groups and in what context.

They found great merit in the ‘housing first’ approach which goes beyond providing physical shelter by linking people with long-term accommodation and support services like health care, coaching in life skills such as cooking and financial management and access to training and education.

After analysing 231 evaluation reports from 102 agencies which provide support and services for homeless people, however, the researchers found it “impossible to answer the first question” and difficult to compare findings across groups and services because of their disparate nature.

“The difficulty these researchers found in answering what seem like basic questions shows the battle we face as a nation to tackle this challenge,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Far too many Australians are sleeping rough, couch surfing, needing crisis accommodation or resorting to sleeping in their cars night after night.

“The Gillard Government remains committed to our ambitious goals of halving the rate of homelessness and offering supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020.

“To do that, we need greater cooperation from the states and territories and I am hopeful that we will see that happen.”

The Select Council on Housing and Homelessness is meeting in Perth today and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), which expires next year, and the National Agreement on Housing Affordability (NAHA) are on the agenda.

“This Labor Government knows that many Australians are struggling because of a lack of affordable housing,” Mr O’Connor said.

“That’s why we have invested an unprecedented $20 billion in housing and homelessness services and programs since coming to office.

“In fact, the Federal Government has made a direct financial contribution to one in every 20 homes built around the nation since 2008 through the Social Housing Initiative, the National Rental Affordability Scheme, the Housing Affordability Fund and the Building Better Regional Cities program.

“We are building almost 20,000 social housing homes and have carried out repairs and maintenance on 80,000 existing homes, many of which would have become uninhabitable without this work.

“We are building 50,000 new affordable rental homes.

“We know there is more to do, and we need all levels of government to commit to continuing that work.”

As part of Labor’s commitment to halve homelessness, the Government has commissioned the $11.4 million National Homelessness Research Agenda to build a better understanding of what makes people vulnerable to becoming homeless and what programs and services are working.

Mapping and Reviewing Homeless Programs is part of that research. It identified five factors that are consistently important when helping homeless people, including:

  • The importance of securing access to housing to assist in longer-term recovery and prevention of homelessness
  • The role of the pivotal client/worker relationship in recovering from and preventing homelessness
  • The importance of being able to provide practical assistance as well as case management
  • The long tradition and importance of service collaboration to build service capacity to help clients
  • The importance of long-term flexible support to sustain tenancies and help prevent recurring bouts of homelessness.

“The Government welcomes this important addition to the evidence,” Mr O’Connor said.

“It shows the importance of moving people into secure accommodation as quickly as possible, supported by a case manager who can advocate for a range of support services which meets the individual’s needs.

“This report will assist policy development and how we target our services.

“It will also help us measure our progress towards our target of halving homelessness by 2020.”

The report can be found at