New approach to tackling homelessness

Rabbi Mendel Kastel (left) and Lifeline Australia chairman John Brogden presenting the 2017 Ending Homelessness Report to NSW Parliament.

A REPORT presented to NSW Parliament last week by Lifeline Australia chairman John Brogden has revealed how a new cutting edge post-crisis homelessness program run by Jewish House is already changing lives, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

In a bid to make a dent in the rising figure of more than 28,000 homeless people in NSW, the Bondi-based crisis accommodation centre began implementing the HomeBase Program two years ago, after noticing its success in delivering long term outcomes for New York City’s homeless.

It works by supporting clients after they leave crisis accommodation so they can establish independent living with appropriate ongoing psychological, social and health support, working with staff whom they are already familiar with.

The 2017 Ending Homlessness Report, supported by independent analysis of outcomes data by the University of Technology Sydney, found that 93 per cent of HomeBase Program participants were able to secure stable rental accommodation within six months.

More than 12 per cent were more likely to have or secure employment, and there was a 12 per cent fall in self-reported mental health issues and a 42 per cent drop in illicit substance abuse.

The report also showed that for 261 program participants and a $620,000 investment, “Jewish House offset the potential costs of $8.6 million to the community”.

It concluded the HomeBase model, if expanded, has the potential to save Commonwealth and state governments more than $150 million per year.

Rabbi Kastel said the report’s findings are exciting as they show that “greater collaboration and integration of services will deliver better results for clients, and cost savings to government, changing the tide in hopelessness and getting more people housed.

“It also shows the importance of the humanity and care that is vital to help get the outcomes we are looking for with clients, taking them on the journey of improving their lives.”

Brogden said “it is evident that a new approach – such as the one Jewish House has been practicing – will not only contribute to the welfare of the person in crisis, but can also save society significant costs”.

Last week Rabbi Kastel was invited onto the board of the NSW Council of Social Service, which works to tackle poverty and disadvantage.

“I’m excited at the opportunity to have input in advocacy at this level for the community and those who need a voice,” he said.

SHANE DESIATNIK