Melbourne Street to Home
What is Street to Home?
Street to Home is an innovative approach to ending homelessness for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. It is relatively new in Australia, but has already recorded major successes overseas.
Originating in New York, it has spread across the US, to the UK, Canada and now to Australia based on the simple yet powerful concept of giving people experiencing long-term homelessness fast access to quality housing together with ongoing support. This gets them off the street and into permanent housing without the need to prove they are ‘housing ready’ or move through crisis accommodation or the transitional housing system. It is an example of a Housing First approach and fits well with other innovative approaches like Supportive Housing.
The Federal Government’s White Paper on Homelessness identified Street to Home as one of its key strategies in delivering on its commitment to halve the number of Australians experiencing homelessness by 2020. It is currently being implemented in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra and is already operating in Adelaide.
Melbourne’s Street to Home program is a partnership between HomeGround Services, The Salvation Army Adult Services and The Salvation Army Crisis Services and the Royal District Nursing Service - Homeless Persons Program.
What has it already achieved?
Street to Home was first developed in New York and this is the city where the results have been best documented. The annual New York Homeless Census recorded a nearly 50% reduction in rough sleeping across the city with a 30% drop between 2008 and 2009, following the introduction of Street to Home.
In a smaller research sample taken around one of the New York’s main centres for rough sleeping, the famous Times Square, an 87% reduction in rough sleeping was recorded over a two year period.
Here in Australia, Adelaide’s Street to Home program, an initiative of the South Australian Social Inclusion Board, has already housed over 130 vulnerable rough sleepers in the past two years. More than 40 had been living on the streets for over five years, some for more than 15.
The US evidence also shows that Street to Home can save money. The costs of long-term housing and ongoing support per person was found to be just two thirds of the costs of maintaining that same person in temporary shelter accommodation. Once housed, the costs to other welfare systems, including health, mental health, justice and others also decrease. In short, it can be cheaper to end homelessness once and for all than to ‘manage’ it and sustain people in unhealthy situations.
How and why does it work?
Instead of traditional homeless outreach, Street to Home focuses on housing placement, establishment and tenancy sustainability for the most vulnerable members of the homeless population. People are assessed using a vulnerability index tool. Once housed, the focus shifts to establishing and sustaining long-term tenancies and providing tailored support that builds on the stable foundation that housing provides.
Street to Home works because it helps people sleeping rough to move directly into permanent homes. It identifies and houses those who have been homeless the longest, who have the most disabling conditions and who are least likely to secure housing through existing services and programs. This challenges the prevailing view in Australia that people need to move through crisis, temporary and transitional accommodation before being ‘housing ready’ and therefore able to move into a permanent home.
Street to Home also breaks the insidious cycle of rough sleeping; hospital emergency and psychiatric wards; temporary and crisis accommodation; rooming houses and refuges; couch surfing; housing breakdown and jail. Once established with the foundation of permanent housing beneath their feet, ongoing support helps them reconnect with their community and social networks while addressing their own personal challenges.
This creates a new positive cycle of hope and aspiration to replace the negative cycle of hopelessness and desperation. It is a powerful and transformative approach that offers great lessons in the struggle to end homelessness. Street to Home shows that for even the most entrenched and hopeless, there remains a way to support people to significantly improve their situation and create lasting change in their life.
The way forward, the way home
Street to Home is an inspiring example of how the entrenched social problem of homelessness can be tackled in a powerful new way. The evidence shows that homelessness in Australia can be ended that we already have many of the tools to make this happen.
Successful programs will be based around ensuring direct access to permanent housing, the provision of ongoing support, a focus on measuring long-term outcomes and using the best evidence available both locally and overseas.
All the organisations around Australia that are implementing Street to Home in their local communities see it as a model capable of helping the most vulnerable members to create lasting personal change. The Victorian partnership between HomeGround Services, The Salvation Army and the Royal District Nursing Serivce is committed to realising the potential of this approach and contributing to the emerging national movement that aims to make homelessness a thing of the past.
ABC 7:30 Victoria coverage of 2011 Registry Week
- Melbourne Street to Home service information
- Infomation sheet
- Bulletin 1: Registry Week
- Bulletin 2: Progress and Challenges
- Bulletin 3: Registry Week 2011 announced for October
- Bulletin 4: Melbourne's second registry week reveals progress
- Bulletin 5: Putting the runs on the board