This week is homelessness week and the theme is To End Homelessness We Need A Plan. At HoMie we believe in housing as a basic human right and we know that with the right coordination and resourcing, homelessness in Australia can be made a thing of the past. There’s a lot of work needed to improve the support provided to people affected by homelessness or hardship, and we’d like our community to get onboard and help make it happen.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that in 2020-21 there were a total of 114,000 unassisted requests for housing support, around 18,700 more than the previous year. 1 These requests usually go unassisted because housing support services have reached capacity and have no more accommodation to offer. Under-resourcing is by far the most prominent challenge faced by housing support services, and in 2022 it seems to be the case more so than before.
When working with young people who are looking to build a career, develop networks and make their way in the world, having a stable and reliable support team is extremely important. Despite this, every single intern in our Pathway Alliance cohort has experienced a changeover in either their Key Support Worker or Retail Manager since our program began in March. This turbulence is not unique to any one organisation or company, rather, it is a reflection of our current post-pandemic economy, as has been reported by the Reserve Bank of Australia.2
But these long standing impacts of COVID-19 are felt by some more than others. Housing support services are being limited by resourcing and staff shortages. Support staff, who were at the ‘frontline’ during our many lockdowns are underpaid and overworked. Wait times for mental health care referrals are longer than ever. We are watching our young people bear the brunt of this, with hardworking support workers desperately trying to plug the gaps.
As the price of housing reaches impossible heights and the cost of living skyrockets, the services expected to address growing homelessness are being tested. Based on what we’re seeing, it would be of little surprise if the number of unassisted requests for housing supports increased by another 20% in the 2021-22 period, if not more.
A plan to end homelessness
To End Homelessness We Need A Plan is a call to action for the federal government to develop a national housing and homelessness plan. They’ve made a commitment to increase funding for housing and invest in “more social housing, upgrade existing housing, and make sure that the promise of home ownership is extended to all Australians”.3 But the research demonstrates clearly that we need more than housing, we need an evidence-based plan which moves beyond crisis support to invest in prevention and early intervention, to help break the cycle of homelessness.4
Recent research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) highlighted that one of the key factors needed to help end homelessness in Australia is collaboration. 4 Often referred to as ‘wrap-around support’, a collaborative approach involves different services working together to provide comprehensive support toward positive outcomes for a person; depending on their goals, priorities and presentation.4-5 A care team (or care network) may look different for each person and can include: housing officers, support workers, case managers, mental health practitioners and clinical staff. Regardless of what it looks like, evidence shows that integration between support services is more effective at addressing the complex barriers that people affected by homelessness and hardship face.6
At HoMie this wrap-around support is central to the way we work. We work closely with each young person’s care team to help ensure they have holistic support across all key aspects of their life: education, employment and wellbeing. We extend our collaboration to our retail partners, who receive specialised training on the tools needed to best manage each intern’s unique challenges and strengths. This approach ensures the support we are providing to our young people is personalised, flexible and catering to each individuals' different learning styles and mental health needs throughout our education and employment program. 7
But developing a highly supportive environment that allows young people to flourish requires resources. It requires time, it requires money and it requires a lot of work from experienced individuals.
What can you do?
Our model at HoMie is built on looking beyond homelessness to understand complicating factors such as mental health, barriers to education and family breakdown. Young people need to be able to access positive opportunities for engagement in education and employment without the stigma associated with homelessness. 8 This means that in order to truly achieve wrap-around support, we need engagement from employers and communities.
To End Homelessness We Need A Plan isn’t just a call to action for our government. It’s a call to action for all to get onboard and help us develop a comprehensive approach to address this issue once and for all. We need businesses who can provide the flexibility and empathy that young people need to build their confidence and experience. We need the private sector, and private landowners, to help provide the resources which housing support services need to address the gaps in our current system. We need communities to embrace this issue and start working to forget the stigma they've learnt.
This blog was written by Tia Brullo, our Evaluation and Learning Advisor.
Our programs support young people affected by homelessness or hardship to be more work-ready and better prepared for their future, to help break the cycle of homelessness. We also work with business and our partners to help develop our communities understanding homelessness and fight common stigma. For more information about our programs please click here.