The Victorian Budget has slashed funding for a highly successful homelessness program which halved rough sleeping in Victoria, with Council to Homeless Persons warning it will leave the most vulnerable out in the cold, and ultimately end up costing the state more in the long run.
Today’s Victorian Budget revealed funding to From Homelessness to a Home (H2H) program has been reduced by $43 million annually, 78% of its earlier budget which translates to 1,440 people missing out on support.
From Homelessness to a Home (H2H) saves an estimated $13,100 public expenditure for each participant annually, by diverting people away from hospitalisation, acute mental healthcare, and incarceration.
“The government has failed to seize the opportunity to consolidate the success of From Homelessness to a Home, which effectively halved Victoria’s rates of rough sleeping,” said Jenny Smith, CEO of Council to Homeless Persons.
“Failing to support people out of rough sleeping only guarantees more pressure on other services, such as hospitals, psychiatric wards, and prisons. It’s not just an economic costs, there’s also a societal cost to not helping our most vulnerable.
“The cut to the majority of the funding means 1,440 people will miss out on life-changing support that provides stability for people with enormous complexity in their lives.
“From Homelessness to a Home showed when we have the political will, we can get a roof over people’s heads as well as the support they need to keep that home, quickly and effectively. This Budget puts the brakes on the significant momentum we saw in sharply reducing rough sleeping.”
During the pandemic, tens of thousands of Victorians without homes were provided with short term relief in hotels, and then supported into private rentals. As part of this, H2H was introduced to meet the ongoing needs of those who’d experienced long-term rough sleeping and had more complex needs.
The program has provided 1,845 households with stable medium and long term housing and support packages, including counselling, mental health, family violence and health and wellness services. Council to Homeless Persons says it is vital these places are at the very least maintained, and when vacancies occur they are open to more of the 9,000 rough sleepers seen by our homelessness services in Victoria each year.
“One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic was the government’s promise of a home for life and long-term support for rough sleepers. Now, the government’s walked away from that promise and nearly 1,440 of those people will miss out on that life-changing ongoing support.”
The announcement of a $75 million investment in tackling homelessness over three years will provide welcome capital investment and over time some additional services, but the peak body for Victorian homelessness services warned it remained that there was now no soft landing for rough sleepers.
“Homelessness is more than missing out on a safe bed at night – it creates insecurity which conspires to deprive people of work, education, and social opportunities.
“One H2H participant described almost being poisoned by the adrenaline of living in constant crisis while on the streets, but a safe, secure home gave him a chance to take a breath and begin to rebuild.”
The From Homelessness to a Home program is inspired by housing first principles, a successful international model ending rough sleeping by housing and supporting people who have experienced long term and recurring homelessness. Key ingredients in the success of housing first is that housing is permanent and support must be available for as long as people need it.