29 August 2016

Andrew BeerOn any given night 1 in 200 people in Australia are homeless and hundreds of thousands more are under severe financial stress and in danger of becoming homeless.

Last year alone 256,000 people were assisted by specialist homelessness agencies across Australia, receiving nearly 20 million days of support and around 6.6 million nights of accommodation.

Yet 329 requests for assistance were unable to be met - every single day.

The numbers are confronting and governments all over the country are trying to find the solution to this growing problem.

UniSA Business School Dean of Research and Innovation, Professor Andrew Beer and colleagues Dr Laurence Lester and Sandy Horne have today released their A Home for All research that shows investing modest amounts in the lives of disadvantaged people and the homeless has an enormous impact on their quality of life and significantly reduces long term public sector expenditure on acute needs such as emergency medical services, police and mental health services.

“Many people experience events in their life that may place them at risk of homelessness and with Australia experiencing the challenging economic transition of car manufacturers and associated suppliers ceasing operations, major companies shedding staff and the mining sector slowing, there is a desperate need for innovative policy and service delivery in this sector,” Prof Beer says.

“The small individual grants analysed in this study positively impacted many South Australians by either reducing their risk of homelessness or helping those who were homeless find stable and appropriate housing.

“In an Australia increasingly at risk of moving away from a commitment to giving everyone a fair go, we need to be reminded of how important these kinds of services are.

“Flexible, adaptable and human-centred programs have a huge impact on the lives of everyday Australians and they help many people who never really expected they would need assistance but whose circumstances have changed through anything from ill health, age, divorce or unemployment.”

Grant recipients reported life changing outcomes including finding employment, escaping violence in the home, improved mental and physical health, reduced risk of suicide and stable housing.

While the grants were relatively small in value a cost-benefit analysis undertaken as part of the study found a substantial positive return from the program with on average six dollars in social and economic benefits for vulnerable households for every one dollar of cost.

“The value of this ‘productivity’ benefit cannot be under-estimated in a period in which agencies are under increasing pressure to assist more families and individuals in difficult circumstances,” Prof Beer says.

“Most Australian states have a ‘no wrong door’ approach that ensures people have easy access to services but the system is overwhelmed by the level of need in the community, especially the impact of very high levels of acute housing stress.

“The A Home for All report demonstrates the need for community groups, philanthropic organisations and governments alike to provide flexible assistance to those most in need.

“The focus on housing assistance in particular is so important because good housing is the bedrock of a stable life and unfortunately governments and other agencies have tended to move away from supporting this assistance over the past two decades.

“Put simply, stable housing saves lives, ensures better health outcomes (especially mental health), helps kids do better at school and builds communities.”

Prof Beer says the development of compatible grants on scale is fundamental to the wellbeing of vulnerable Australians into the future, especially as we face the impact of large scale manufacturing closures across the country.

“The evidence is clear that small grants help to prevent the tragedy of suicide, provide women with an exit pathway from violent and abusive partners, provide a haven for the sick and give children a bed to sleep in, clean clothes and a fridge for their food,” he says.

“Governments, the homelessness sector and the broader community need to both acknowledge the magnitude and impact of poverty and vulnerability in our community and take steps to help those truly in need.”

 Professor Andrew Beer

Professor Andrew Beer is the Dean: Research and Innovation in the UniSA Business School.  As a researcher, Andrew has always been intrigued by the ways in which market processes interact with government policies and programs - and this curiosity has been funnelled into two primary areas of research: housing policies and programs and regional issues. More recently Andrew has collaborated with a number of colleagues on issues relating to ageing and the impact of housing on health.

 A Home for All: Cost-benefit Analysis of The Wyatt Trust Housing Initiative Grants

By Andrew Beer, Laurence Lester and Sandy Horne - University of South Australia Business School August 2016

 Media contact: Katrina McLachlan mobile: 0414972537 email: katrina.mclachlan@unisa.edu.au


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