Australia’s services to support the homeless are overwhelmingly unable to meet client demand, according to new research from the Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (CSI UWA).
The research, produced for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), calls for immediate consideration of additional funding models to address the critical unmet need for housing and services to support the homeless.
The AHURI Inquiry into funding and delivery of programs to reduce homelessness report, also supported by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology and the University of New South Wales, found that government funding accounts for 85 per cent of funding received by specialist services for the homeless.
The report found that additional revenue sources, which include philanthropy, own-revenue, corporate sponsorship, donations and new forms such as social enterprise income and social impact bonds (SIBs), are essential to supplement government funding to meet demand and support the homeless.
Lead author Professor Paul Flatau, Director of CSI UWA said that greater stability of government funding was needed as well as a positive environment for increased giving and revenue to help the investment into affordable housing and services.
“As we would expect, there is a heavy reliance on government funding for services for the homeless, and we know that this is considered essential to providing core services. However, with this reliance comes vulnerability to changes in government policy,” Professor Flatau said.
“If we look at ways that the sector can diversify its funding sources, we can begin to close the gaps that exist, particularly in areas that government funding doesn’t reach, such as a coordinated response to address the very high rates of Indigenous homelessness.”
Professor Flatau said more funding and impact investment was required for capital projects to create a greater supply of accessible, affordable housing. This would help stem the inflow of people into homelessness and assist people to exit homelessness.
“There is a need for further government support to the community housing sector in order to allow it to have the confidence to scale up investment in affordable housing.”
The AHURI report recommends renewed focus on early intervention strategies to reduce homelessness and cross-sectoral, inter-governmental and cross-departmental government funding packages for integrated service approaches.
Executive Director of AHURI, Dr Ian Winter said the inquiry is the first comprehensive Australian evidence of the funding of services for the homeless.
“By bringing together a cross-university research team and a panel of expert advisers from the government and housing and homelessness sectors, the Inquiry has focussed on developing evidence that can practically support policy development,” Dr Winter said.