Chronic homelessness in Melbourne: the experiences of Journey to Social Inclusion Mark II study participants

Homelessness Social inclusion Victoria

The Journey to Social Inclusion Mark II (J2SI Mark II) program is an innovative homelessness program implemented and administered by Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) in Melbourne. The program aims to break the cycle of chronic homelessness by providing rapid access to sustained permanent housing and improving the health, well-being and social outcomes of participants. It builds on the pilot J2SI program undertaken between 2009 and 2012 (Johnson & Tseng, 2010; Johnson et al., 2011; Johnson et al., 2012; Johnson et al., 2013; Johnson et al., 2014; Parkinson, 2012; Parkinson & Johnson, 2014). The J2SI service model is based on five key elements: assertive case management and service coordination, housing access and sustaining tenancies, trauma-informed practice, building skills for inclusion, and fostering independence (Sacred Heart Mission, 2016).

This baseline report is the first report released as part of the Journey to Social Inclusion Mark II (J2SI Mark II) research study. The research study is led by the Centre for Social Impact University of Western Australia (CSI UWA) in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology. The present report provides a detailed profile of study participants, all of whom are adults (aged 25-50 years) living in Melbourne who are currently homeless or at immediate risk of homelessness and have experienced chronic homelessness in their lives (see sections 2 and 3 for definitions of homelessness used and the detailed eligibility criteria for the study). The report summarises the socio-demographic profile of study participants along with their histories and current experience of homelessness and housing; their labour force status; mental and physical health outcomes; their use of, and dependence on, alcohol and other drugs; quality of life and wellbeing outcomes; contact with the health and justice systems; and their social supports and connections.

The J2SI Mark II impact evaluation is a three-year, mixed methods, multi-site randomised controlled trial (RCT). The J2SI Mark II Baseline Survey, on which the report is based, was administered to research study participants prior to randomisation.

Following completion of the J2SI Mark II Baseline Survey, study participants were randomised to an intervention group (the ‘J’ group; i.e., those who were enrolled in the J2SI Mark II program), and a comparison group (the ‘E’ group; i.e., those who do not receive J2SI Mark II support but remain eligible to receive existing standard service provision). As measurement of participant outcomes in this report occurred prior to the start of the J2SI Mark II program, the findings are not influenced by whether participants were randomised to the J2SI Mark II program or the comparison group.

The study excluded individuals who were already receiving intensive long-term support from another homelessness program. However, participants in the study were typically receiving some level of support from specialist homelessness services at the time of enrolment, whether in the form of outreach and day centre support or crisis or transitional accommodation. The J2SI Mark II evaluation utilises a broad range of data including longitudinal survey data, qualitative interview and focus group data, and linked administrative data from Victorian and Australian government agencies across a range of domains (i.e., health, housing, justice, labour force and income support) to develop a rich profile of study participants and the pathways they follow over time.

The objectives of the J2SI Mark II research study are to:

  • Describe histories, needs, circumstances and pathways of those experiencing chronic homelessness in Melbourne;
  • Assess the impact of the J2SI Mark II program implemented by SHM compared to that derived from existing standard service provision in the following domains: education, employment and income; social inclusion; mental health; physical health; housing; and, service usage;
  • Examine the cost of the J2SI program compared with existing service provision and assess the overall cost-effectiveness of the J2SI Mark II program (accounting for differential cost offsets); and,
  • Provide a framework for scaling up the J2SI intervention pending positive evaluation findings.

Please note: the follow up report to this publication, examining first year outcomes of this project, can be accessed here

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