The homeless lacks most of the basic needs that one requires to lead a comfortable life and often have to deal with some of the harshest aspects of life. In Australia, for example, studies have shown that homelessness is a growing social and health issues exacerbated by the de-institutionalization of burgeoning waitlists for housing in the public sector and psychiatric care. Both governmental and non-governmental institutions extend various sets of assistance to this group of vulnerable people of Australia. Nonetheless, none of these strategies can help end homelessness in the country, and this paper will review each of them, with the sole focus on outlining their advantages and disadvantages. The paper also looks to advise the relevant authorities on the best strategies to adopt in dealing with this social vice across the country. It hypothesizes that a blend of some of these programs would give better results than using them individually.
Keywords: homeless, homelessness, social and health issues, Australia, strategies, program
In an article - As Cities Grow, So Do the Numbers of Homeless - Chamie Joseph (2017) explains that about 2% of the world’s population (150 million), as per the national reports, is homeless. He adds that more than 20% of people in the world (or about 1.6 billion) lack adequate. Part of these tallies is accounted by the homeless and those with poor housing in Australia, whose recent (2016) data revealed that homelessness in the country increased by 13.7% in 5 years (Homelessness Australia ABN , n.d. ). Currently, one of the widely used programs for handling homelessness issues in the country is the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) system. Others include the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), research programs, and emergency departments (EDs) of the public health system. In this paper, each of these programs is reviewed to unpack their advantages and disadvantages, with the sole focus on recommending how Australia can best solve the problem.
Some of the homelessness programs used in Australia currently uses to deal with homelessness issues in the country include the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) system, the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH). The commonwealth government also uses research programs and emergency departments (EDs) of the public health system to cater for the needs of the homeless. These programs play different roles as outlined in the following sections.
The Australian government uses the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) system to provide about 300,000 with vital homelessness services designed to assist them in various areas of their needs. In particular, the SHS delivers high quality, client-based services across the country to prevent and end homelessness. Not only does the SHS handle a wide range of crisis, but also provide short and longer-term support services to those who are at risk or experiencing homelessness. In addition to that, SHS works to leverage the damage caused by homelessness on individuals, children, families, and the community at large. It is also worth noting that SHS strives to increase the pathways out of homelessness by protecting the homeless from the costs of their hard life while improve health and well-being, as well as maximizing social and economic outcomes through participation.
Despite its benefits, SHS has a set of drawbacks that hamper its commitment to fighting homelessness in Australia. For example, Homelessness Australia (2017) explains that the Australian Government has not shown any commitment to continually fund SHS in its ongoing proper service delivery. Lack of proper funding means that SHS is unable to run its operations properly, meaning that the SHS alone cannot be used to handle homelessness issues in the country. Homelessness Australia (2017) suggest that at least a five funding kitty is needed to have SHS sustaining its development programs and delivery of contemporary, evidence-based services to vulnerable people in the country. Whether such a funding help is coming anytime soon is open for debates, but it is evident that the homeless needs another source of help.
Another disadvantage of relying on SHS for help is that it does not provide housing facilities. Providing affordable housing, especially to those on the lowest ebb of the income structure and those who lack access to it, is one of the most productive strategies for reducing homelessness. Currently, Australia has a severe shortage of social housing, with the private rental market becoming nearly inaccessible to people on low incomes or those in dire need of financial support. The lack of safe and secure affordable housing bears the blame for the growing cases of homelessness in most parts of the country. Such a situation makes it easy for critics to throw blames at the National Affordable Housing Strategy for failing to honor the National
Affordable Housing Agreement, part of which involved the promise to increase accessibility to housing. At the same time, however, it is worth noting that the shortage is caused by SHS’s inability to provide housing to the homeless.
The National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) plays an integral role in helping Australia fight homelessness. Under the NAHA, the Commonwealth Government maintains the $275 million funding provided to homelessness services. It also sets the goals to be attained by the programs designed to help fight this social vice outside the country. In addition to that, it also provides crisis accommodation for women, children and young people who need to escape domestic and family violence, as well as rough sleepers.
On the flipside, the NAHA has some drawbacks that limit its ability to help Australia fight homelessness. For example, is lacking in the supply of social and affordable housing across the country. NAHA’s limited allocation of funds also limits Commonwealth and State commitment and investment in social housing growth. This observation resonates with the fact that funding under the National Affordable Housing Agreement (now the NHHA) is allocated to the state and territory governments based on their respective share of the homeless population.23 Using the ABS definition, this would disproportionately allocate resources to the Northern Territory where the percentage of people living in severely overcrowded accommodation increases the percentage of the national homeless population from 3.6% to 14.7% based on the 2011 census.
Just like NAHA, the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) funds the projects and programs designed to fight homelessness in Australia. It provides five-year
funding designed to increase the CPI. It also provides various across different regions affected by homelessness across the country. It also sets goals driven by the National Homelessness Strategy. Just like NAHA, NPAH contributes to the strategy that the homeless or who are at risk of homelessness should attain social inclusion and sustainable housing. It also outlines the responsibilities and roles of the Australian Government, as well as territory and state governments in efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness.
Initially, funding for NPAH was scheduled for a four-year period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2013. This period was then followed with an interim funding agreement the Australian and both the state and territory governments for the 2013/14 and 2014/15 periods. In 2015/16 period, the government of Australian committed further $230 million funding for about 2 years, under the NPAH. This budget was matched by the state and territory governments. An interim arrangement for funding for the 2017/18 period provided CPI indexation for that year.
Besides its benefits and contribution towards homelessness cases in Australia, the NPAH has a range of drawbacks that limit its reliability as the prime program for fighting homelessness in the country. One of its disadvantages is that it has a limited duration of funding. For example, when the NPAH made an interim arrangement for funding for the 2017/18 period provided CPI indexation, its funding project was only limited to a 1-year duration. This outcome led to a $10 million as from 2015. The NPAH’s failure to commit to a progressive funding program has affected some homelessness agencies in the country such as SHS, which has had to cancel some plans to handle the issues of homelessness in the country. With the NPAH struggling to fund it, SHS has had to cut short its project of innovating its service delivery and maintaining its workforce in a work environment that fosters job continuity.
The Australian government invests hefty sums of money in research on ways to handle the issues of homelessness in the country. In 2008, for example, it invested $11 million in research. One of the leading benefits of using research to solve this social vice is that it helps draw “real” data that the government can use to development schemes, programs, projects and facilities for curbing homelessness in the country. In addition to that, research helps the Australian government establish benchmarks from which it can copy the best strategies for handling the country’s issues of homelessness.
Establishing benchmarks across the globe and drawing real-life data make research one of the most valuable tools for helping the Australian government end homelessness across the country. However, the slowness and delays in using research data to implement significant changes through development means that this strategy cannot be used as the sole of primary highway out of homelessness in Australia. According to Herault & Johnson (2016), one of the drawbacks of using research to solve homelessness issues in the country is that the Australian homelessness research and programs have lagged behind the developments in the same area in different parts of the world for the most part of the last three decades.
The emergency departments (EDs) of various health facilities across the country have helped assist the homeless in Australia, albeit involuntarily. In the views of Davies & Wood (2018), the substantial cost of health among the homeless places a significant burden on the Australian public health system. The emergency departments (EDs) of various health facilities across the country have are frequented by the homeless for health issues that could be more efficiently and better handled by either social services or the primary health care settings. In many EDs across the country, the homeless account for the highest percentage of frequent presenters with higher unplanned admissions and longer length of stay.
Although the operations of the EDs help handle the issues of homelessness in Australia, the use of EDs comes with many challenges. For starters, the use of EDs by the homeless is carried out involuntarily in an unplanned manner that only lead to misappropriation of the resources used to help the homeless who frequent EDs. In 2017, for example, the first 8 months saw about 30% (900 people) of the Homeless Healthcare clients (3,135) presented to the Royal Perth Hospital ED. With each case demanding about $765, the health cases of the homeless handled by Australian EDs demanded at least $2.4 million.
Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness/WAAEH (2018), in its description of the 10-year (2018-2028) plan to end homelessness in Western Australia, outlined some of the strategies that the country intends to use to curtail the spread of homelessness in the country. According to the WAAEH (2018) data the strategies designed to help reduce homelessness in the country include housing, prevention, a strong (robust) and coordinated response, research, data and targets, and building community capacity. Although WAAEH (2018) designed these programs for the western parts of Australia, I think that all the state and territorial governments should follow the suit.
Most importantly, the benefits of these programs make them a perfect fit for the homelessness issues in Australia. For example, the first program requires the relevant authorities to ensure affordable and adequate housing while prevention fosters prevention and early interventions. A strong and coordinated response means a 24-7 “no-wrong-door” system, which involves delivering responsive action across different health and community support systems with improved coordination and ability to act quickly. In addition to that, research, data and targets, and building community capacity would help Australia fight homelessness.
d’Abrera, C. (2017). Dying with Their Rights On: The myths and realities of ending homelessness in Australia. National Library of Australia.
Davies, A., & Wood, L. J. (2018). Homeless health care: meeting the challenges of providing primary care. Narrative Review , 230-234.
Herault, N., & Johnson, G. (2016). Homelessness in Australia: Service Reform and Research in the 21st Century. European Journal of Homelessness , 127-144.
Homelessness Australia. (2017). A National Homelessness Strategy: why we need it.
Homelessness Australia ABN . (n.d. ). Homelessness statistics. Retrieved May 9, 2020, from
Homelessness Australia ABN : https://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/about/homelessness-statistics
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