Explores the effect homelessness programs have on the potential to yield substantial cost savings particularly in health and justice service areas and the use of social welfare services.
Homelessness programs were generally effective in • stabilising accommodation, improving access to health services, improving social relationships and general satisfaction with life. Improvements in employment were more meagre, and most homelessness program clients were still reliant on welfare payments.
People experiencing homelessness were often high • users of government non-homelessness services (e.g. health, justice and welfare), with mean costs ranging from $18 201 per client per year (for tenant support clients) through to $44 147 (for single men’s supported accommodation clients). The very high mean cost is in part driven by welfare payments and those people who had significant contact with institutional services, such as hospital or incarceration.
Although the mean cost of non-homelessness services • is very high, prior to seeking homelessness support, many people incurred low health and justice costs. The distribution of health and justice costs is highly skewed: a significant minority exhibit very low health and justice costs while some individuals had very high costs, resulting in median costs lying well below mean costs.
The mean cost of health, justice and welfare • services used by clients of homelessness support programs was lower after a period of support. The associated potential savings to government, or cost offset to homelessness program cost, was estimated at $3685 per client per year.
Homelessness programs for single women • achieved very significant net benefits, with the costs of providing the programs offset by reductions in health, justice and welfare costs. However, in most cases the offsets did not cover the full costs of the programs.
Funding programs for women and those • escaping domestic violence actually saved governments money in the short term, making these programs highly cost effective.
Net savings were not apparent for programs • for single men and tenancy support recipients where costs (especially for health) can increase markedly in the short term. However, the economic case for interventions is robust since all programs resulted in improved client outcomes, although it may take several years before outcomes are sufficiently stabilised for associated savings to be observed.