Homelessness Services Desperately Short of Funding

By Andrew Heaton

(image via Community Action Partnership)

Homelessness services throughout Australia have nowhere near enough funding to meet current levels of demand, according to the latest report which calls for consideration of additional funding models.

Releasing its report into the funding and delivery of programs to reduce homelessness, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) said that only around one third of homelessness services were able to meet 90 percent or more of their current demand workload.

The situation was particularly worrying for non-Specialist Homeless Services and indigenous focused services, where only 28 percent of services were able to meet even 76 percent or more of demand.

According to the report, funding from government sources represents the bulk of financial resources available to the sector.

All up, these sources accounted for 84.6 percent of funding provided to Specialist Homelessness Services (services which receive funding from dedicated housing and homelessness agreements).

It says revenue from additional sources is essential in order to supplement government funding, including from philanthropy, corporate sponsorship, donations, social enterprise and social impact bonds.

At the moment, however, these sources represented only a small portion of overall funding.

Furthermore, whilst these sources offered obvious benefits, costs associated with them include greater reporting requirements, more onerous requirements regarding outcomes measurement, potential focus changes in light of funder requirements and conflict between services and funders in terms of values and objectives.

Lead author Professor Paul Flatau, Director of the Centre of Social Impact at the University of Western Australia, said greater stability of government funding was required together with an environment in which giving, internal revenue generation and impact investment in affordable housing and homelessness support is encouraged.

“As we would expect, there is a heavy reliance on government funding by homelessness services, 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 homelessness sector can diversify their funding sources, we can begin to shore up those 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.

In its report, AHURI makes a number of recommendations.

These include greater funding for capital projects in order to create a greater supply of accessible and affordable housing, ongoing support to enable community housing providers to scale up and invest in affordable housing stock and more investment in early intervention strategies to reduce the number of people coming in to the homeless system.

In regard to community housing, Flatau would also like to see a greater focus on linking funding with results achieved.

This would include through funding structures in which levels of payment varies according to outcomes delivered.

The report was prepared for AHURI by the CSI WA in conjunction with Swinburne University of Technology and the University of New South Wales.

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