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Long-term commitment on homelessness needed to ensure young South Australians are given the chance to achieve independence

  • Dec 13, 2016
Friday’s Commonwealth Government announcement to deliver $117.2 million to support homelessness front-line services is welcomed, as it provides certainty about existing service provision, ending what has been six months of uncertainty for the sector, and Australians currently experiencing homelessness. It provides a slight increase on present levels of funding for 12 months within the homelessness sector, when matched with state government funding.

The argument for public funding of homelessness service provision is simple. Whether looking to the Nyland Royal Commission recommendations at the state level or Social Services Minister Christian Porter’s Priority Investment Approach federally, it is clear that investment leads to outcomes that lead to savings. Without proper levels of funding to support any person to exit homelessness, but particularly a young person, the cost to that person and to the Australian economy is much greater. SYC, as a long-term provider of homelessness services, including self-funding wrap-around and long-term homelessness supports to young people below the age of 25, can evidence this. There is clear evidence that a long-term approach to reforming our homelessness system can achieve better results for the young person and the community as a whole.

Last year 640 young South Australians experiencing homelessness presented at Trace-A-Place (TAP), the youth homelessness gateway operated by HYPA, seeking crisis support.

TAP has existed as a youth homelessness crisis brokerage service in South Australia since 1981 and since 2010 it has been funded by the South Australian State Government and the Federal Government under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), but until Friday’s announcement, coinciding with the Council of Australian Governments meeting, the viability of frontline services like TAP and additional SYC-funded wrap around services which work together with the existing government service provision, were in jeopardy. Their long term viability is still question marked even with Friday’s announcement.

A recent study by leading universities and providers in 2016 calculated the combined cost of health and justice systems for each young person experiencing homelessness in Australia at $17,868 each year. Even this figure underestimates the actual cost because it does not include the amount spent on delivering homelessness services, nor the impact if reduced economic participation by these young people stemming from homelessness.

Yet when we can transition a young person from a position of homelessness to stable accommodation, like our own self-funded supported accommodation program, HYPA Housing, we see a net lifetime benefit to the individual and the community of $457,000. HYPA Housing is a long-term approach to helping young people exit homelessness, which removes housing as a barrier to employment so a young person can work towards independence.

In the absence of a central homelessness gateway for intake, assessment, referral, support and advocacy there is the risk of siloing systemic problems, impacting significantly on overall service provision. In short, more young people would be likely to enter and remain in homelessness. Securing the future of services like TAP, at least in the short-term, means these young people have been provided a degree of certainty that the vital front-line services they need will be available to them in a crisis.

While this funding will help some of the most vulnerable groups within our community, who may have been sleeping rough or fleeing family violence, it does not address the need for a clear national strategy on how best to alleviate the causes of homelessness, provide investment in support services that can provide a best practice response or support long-term solutions to help young people transition out of homelessness into independence.

TAP, as the youth homeless gateway service in South Australia, can deliver a high quality and effective service for young South Australians within a disciplined, long-term outcomes focused framework. The government and the community receive added benefit, through self-funded activities, when front-line services are adequately funded for the long-term. Together this approach can reduce the prevalence of youth homelessness, ensuring these young people have the opportunity to exit homelessness, achieve independence, and make a contribution to the wider-community and the economy.

If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, contact HYPA on 1300 306046 or visit www.hypa.net.au for more information.

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