2 August 2022
Homelessness Week 2022 - Homelessness is an experience not an identity
Nicola Lemon, Chief Executive Officer of Hume Community Housing
Homelessness Week is from Monday 1 -7 August.
I would like to share with you how Hume makes a genuine contribution to the whole of society, by highlighting and reducing the hidden costs of homelessness.
The numbers of people experiencing homelessness, especially those living rough on the streets, can be confronting but behind those numbers is an even more confronting but little discussed set of numbers - the cost to our society.
As we know at Hume, if a person is experiencing a long period of homelessness, the experiences they are facing are lot more complex than just not having a roof over their head.
People may have gone through long periods facing personal obstacles: mental health, or drug and alcohol dependency, unemployment, trauma from domestic violence and sexual abuse and chronic health issues.
According to a recent study, people who use homelessness services cost governments $186,000 per annum on average, nearly four times more than the general NSW population. With some people costing more than 10 times the rate of the general population.
The 2022 Pathways to Homelessness research, confirmed people accessing specialist homelessness services have significantly higher use of other government services than the broader population.
The study is now being used to prioritize NSW Premier Dominic Perrott’s aim to halve homelessness by 2025.
It is a large task, as in 2020-2021 more than 278,000 Australians sought help from Specialist Homelessness Services.
Ariana, one of Hume’s customers in the Together Home Program, perfectly illustrates this concept of wise investment.
Life took a downward spiral when Ariana was introduced to drugs which led to addiction, a family breakdown and eventually rough sleeping.
Recounting her story, Ariana explained how vulnerable she felt when homeless.
“Not having my own bed, not being able to take a hot shower and having to ask strangers if I could use theirs, was a very helpless feeling,” she said.
While on the streets, she was robbed, stabbed and sexually assaulted, which she described as “traumatic”.
But after joining the Together Home program her life flipped.
“If I had not been part of this program, I probably would have been in the gutter dead by now, I am so very thankful to Together Home which has made a positive difference in my life,” she said.
“The best part is that the Program not only provided me with safe and stable accommodation it gave me the support to rebuild my life.”
The coordination of services for people in the Together Home Program is of particular benefit. The customer can gain trust, does not have to keep retelling their story to different agencies and can access programs and benefits they may not have been able to access before.
Although housing and homelessness services only represented 9% of the overall costs over the 6-year period studied, with more than 50,000 households waiting for social housing in NSW and wait times of up to 10 years and more, suitable housing supply is still desperately inadequate. Something our Housing Options Teams combat every day.
One of Hume’s principles is that homelessness as an experience not an identity. Homelessness is not something that should define who you are as a person.
With stable housing, and the right support services in place, we have seen many people turn their lives around. This is clearly represented in the amazing work and outcomes achieved by the Together Home team at Hume, who through dedication to our customers have achieved a 96% success rate with only three people leaving the program, through their choice. Hume provides both the housing and support coordination through this housing first model- as we have done for over 10 years through TAP and HIP which are temporary and transitional housing programs
A strong example of the value of stable housing and an investment in wrap around services, is Ariana. She is now contributing to society by raising her daughter and helping to care for her elderly parents. She has done parenting courses to develop skills to help her infant daughter bypass intergenerational trauma and is considering a field of study to re-enter the workforce.
That is why in Homelessness Week, we are calling on the NSW Government to fund more social and affordable housing to address this growing need as well as invest further in housing-first models - because they work!
We especially welcome the Federal Government implementing the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to build 30,000 new social and affordable housing properties in its first five years. We understand that Labor plans to have the Community Housing Providers operating in the sector at the centre of its Housing Australia Future Fund and we are advocating to have a seat at the table to show what CHPs can achieve to help inform policy.