Service system changes ‘will help reduce homelessness’

A service system reoriented towards early prevention could help Australia reduce and end homelessness, says a new Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) report.

In the absence of a national homelessness strategy, Australia has a highly fragmented service system, with over 1500 specialist homelessness services (SHSs) funded by all government, charities, and other organisations.

“Addressing this complexity is one essential step in ending homelessness in Australia,” the AHURI report advises.

It proposes a “reimagining” of the Australian homelessness service system, with the primary elements being:

  • a changed role for universal welfare services and SHSs, systematic screening for risk of homelessness, a “duty to assist” policy, brokerage funding to assist clients to maintain existing housing or access new housing, and referrals to SHSs and housing agencies, when necessary; and
  • encouragement and support from state and territory governments for place-based collaborations and alliances of the providers of homelessness services, mainstream welfare services and institutions and governments.

Despite its persistence and complexity as a social problem, homelessness can be prevented in Australia, the report says.

“In general terms, a shift away from a focus on the provision of crises services to responses that arrest the flow of different cohorts into homelessness, rapid rehousing, and appropriate housing options for different cohorts in the homelessness population will become key.”