Major Research into Causes of Homelessness

The Federal Government has launched a $5 million research project to better understand why people become homeless in Australia.

Billed as the most comprehensive research undertaken in Australia on the subject, the Longitudinal Study of Australians Vulnerable to Homelessness will research the lives of Australians who experience or are vulnerable to homelessness.

Flickr Image: Some rights reserved by KLW NFC 

Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib says the Federal Government and the states are investing record amounts to fight homelessness, but it is critical that service delivery is targeted at stopping people becoming homeless in the first place.

The Longitudinal Study of Australians Vulnerable to Homelessness will follow the lives of about 1,500 people across Australia who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness, interviewing them every six months over two years, and will analyse the contributing factors that lead to homelessness.

The two-year study will build on the work already under-way and provide a rich evidence-base to help shape future policy development.

The need for the research was identified in the White Paper on Homelessness as current Australia wide data does not capture issues such as the length of time that people are homeless and what causes the variation in homeless periods among people with similar support available.

With the federal government investing almost $5 billion in new funding to address homelessness, Senator Arbib says the new work they are doing will allow the government to better target funding and resources in the future, ensuring government services are better co-ordinated and people less likely to fall through the cracks.

He says if there are inefficiencies or inadequacies, it’s important that they are addressed quickly so they can help people get back on their feet as soon as possible – early intervention is critical.

Arbib says the earlier they can wrap services around vulnerable people the easier it is to stabilise their housing situation.

According to Homelessness Australia, the national peak body working to prevent and respond to homelessness is Australia, 105,000 Australians experienced homelessness during the past year. The organisations says one in every 154 Australians sought help from a homelessness assistance service.

But the most troubling statistics relate to children and homelessness – Homelessness Australia says last year, one in every 39 children aged under four slept in a homeless service, and almost a quarter of all people experiences homelessness in Australia are under the age of 18.

The study will look also look at Australians who are vulnerable to homelessness. Arbib says that many Australians who are homeless are not living on the streets or rough sleeping but are staying with friends, families or in other temporary accommodation.

He says they need to ensure the services that state and federal governments are providing get people back into stable long-term accommodation and deal with the causes of their problems.

The Australian Government is partnering with the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to conduct the research.

Arbib says the aim of the research is to better understand the causes of homelessness and factors that affect homelessness but also to help Governments and the community determine how better to address homelessness.

The federal Government has set itself the goal of halving overall homelessness by 2020, and providing supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020.

In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, chief executive of the Public Interested Advocacy Centre Edward Santow says that despite billions of dollars of funding committed, the lack of a clear plan to tackle the complexity of homelessness meant the goal looked unachievable.

Santow says $5 million funding for the Longitudinal Study of Australians Vulnerable to Homelessness seems to indicate an awareness that service delivery in this area has not been well co-ordinated, nor has it properly responded to the needs of homeless people.

He says policy often ignores the causes of homelessness, including mental illness and legal problems.

Santow says the urge to help those less fortunate is a great Australian trait. He says the two main parties have shown leadership in starting to combat homelessness, and these good intentions must bow be directed towards clever policies that tackle the problem at its source.

For more information on the Longitudinal Study of Australians Vulnerable to Homelessness, click here.

View Edward Santow article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

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