Homelessness study shows why current system isn't working

Twelve months into a three year pilot project, the study compares 40 participants who are receiving intense, long-term support with 43 people using existing homelessness services.

At the start of the project, all 83 people had been homeless for long periods and, over the six months prior, had moved on average almost once a month.

They collectively used about $750,000 in hospital stays alone in the six months before the start of the project, which could be attributed to almost all having a chronic health condition as well as substance abuse issues.

Today the Victorian Minister for Mental Health and Community Services, the Hon. Mary Wooldridge MP, will be launching the report that comes out of Sacred Heart Mission’s pilot project, Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI).

One year into the three-year project, 75 per cent of the supported group are in safe and affordable housing, in contrast to 30 per cent of the supported group.

Most of the supported participants have achieved housing stability while the comparison group are still moving every two months on average.

The gap between the two groups has also widened when looking at their use of health services and employment outlooks.

Relative to their counterparts, 12 months in, the supported participants are also using expensive acute physical, mental health and homelessness services less often.

Those either working or looking for work has risen to 42 per cent; an indication they are starting to think about their future and rebuild their lives. By comparison, those employed or actively looking in the second group has decreased to 15 per cent.

Co-author of the report and Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, RMIT University, Dr Guy Johnson, said the report demonstrates that people who have been homeless long-term almost always have traumatic backgrounds.”Common in people who have experienced long-term homelessness is a childhood scarred by poverty, homelessness, serious forms of abuse and the intervention of child protection agencies.

“Such disadvantage from their early formative years leads to chronic ill health, drug and alcohol problems, and often limited education and experience in the workforce.

“For these reasons, the challenges of working with people in long-term homelessness are much greater.”

Sacred Heart Mission CEO Michael Perusco said the report shows that the current system is failing this group.

“You don’t turn a lifetime of trauma and disadvantage around in 13 weeks which is typical of the time given in the present crisis-orientated system.

“It’s very encouraging to see what people can achieve with the right support. While people continue to face extraordinary challenges the final two years of the program will provide participants with a great opportunity to rebuild their lives and reconnect with the community”.

An electronic version of ‘Long-term homelessness: Understanding the challenge’ is available online.

Media opportunity
What: Launch of the first Journey to Social Inclusion evaluation report, ‘Long-term homelessness: Understanding the challenge’.
When: Thursday, 25 August 2011, 12.30pm for 1pm start and due to conclude by 2.15pm. Light lunch refreshments will be served before the launch.
Where: Level 23, Ernst & Young, 8 Exhibition Street, Melbourne.
Who: The Hon Mary Wooldridge, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Women’s Affairs and Minister for Community Services. Dr Guy Johnson, Author of report and Research Fellow, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, RMIT

For more information contact:

Marika Fengler, Communications Coordinator, Sacred Heart Mission, (03) 9536 8498 or 0424 137 763 or [email protected]mission.org

Sharon Torney,Manager, Fundraising and Communications, Sacred Heart Mission(03) 9536 8433 or 0412 227 843 or [email protected]

Gosia Kaszubska, Communications Adviser, Media, RMIT University, (03) 9925 3176 or 0417 510 735 or [email protected]