Sustaining tenancies prevents homelessness

Ending homelessness doesn’t stop at the point of putting a roof over someone’s head. We must also ensure that clients are supported to maintain their tenancies and keep their homes.

 Whether in private rental or social housing, giving people effective and timely support in relation to their tenancy ensures that they:

–       get a good start to their tenancy

–       are supported if they experience troubles with their tenancy (i.e. fall behind in rent)

 CHP’s framework for ending homelessness has found that internationally, tenancy sustainment programs that help with arrears, negotiate with landlords, devise early warning systems to detect at-risk tenancies, and resolve disputes are critical to reducing the number of people becoming homeless.

 In the report ‘Making Social Housing Work’, released by CHP and six other peaks, we make a key recommendation for better liaison with struggling tenants and improved support for providers to minimise the risk of eviction.

 Eviction from public housing creates extreme stress and often homelessness. Ultimately it increases cost to governments through the homelessness, health and justice systems.

 In a 2011 report DHS points to research that shows that of the 503 public housing tenants evicted in 2006-7, 90% of them re-presented at crisis and transitional service providers in the subsequent 12 months. The cost of supporting these public housing evictees was estimated to be upwards of $34,000 per year, compared to the $4,300 per year it costs to keep someone in public housing.

 Early intervention to prevent eviction is more cost-effective and meaningful than eviction. A report released today about Victorian tenancy management program, Social Housing Advocacy & Support Program (SHASP), shows that 78% of public housing tenants supported by SHASP avoided eviction, and 73% engaged in repaying debts.

 In the report one of the clients of SHASP, a single mother in public housing named Sarah, had this to say after being helped by SHASP. Sarah was referred to SHASP after experiencing trauma due to the death of her mother, relapsing into substance misuse and falling behind on rent.

 Together with my SHASP worker we are putting supports in place for me and I am linking back in with my drug and alcohol service and mental health supports. I now feel strong enough and in control, my housing is no longer at risk, I am on a payment plan to pay back my arrears. I have even enrolled in a Community Services course and am looking to become a drug and alcohol counsellor.”

 In 2012 the SHASP program had funding cut from $7.4 million to $4.7 million, significantly reducing the capacity of the program to help people in public housing to keep their tenancies.

 CHP is strongly advocating for tenancy support programs like SHASP to be strengthened and expanded across the housing system

 Our pre-budget submission proposes $3.2 million a year be invested in SHASP-like programs so that tenants in public, community and private rental housing can be supported to keep their homes.

 Taking positive action to sustain tenancies benefits individuals and government, and prevents homelessness.