At Evolve Housing we take this further to mean that access to housing means access to a home, a community, and ongoing support.
According to Sacred Heart Mission, a homeless support service in Victoria, people experiencing homelessness are subject to a least 21 traumatic episodes in their lives compared to just four events that are experienced by the general population. These episodes are all barriers to long term housing and support.
The annual Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot (RAS) released in April 2015 found that in 2014 1.6 million Australians struggled to pay rent.
Give a person a home, watch them thrive
Case studies both in Australia and overseas clearly show that when people are provided with the right support and given the resources to make change, they will. By having a home, a person has access to a community and together the community can help that person to break out of the cycle of homelessness and disadvantage.
In the United States, case studies in Utah and Florida showed that it was a better investment for the government to give a house to a homeless person or low-income earner than to continue to support them living on the streets. In Utah, the Housing First program reduced the cost to taxpayers per chronically homeless person from an average of $20,000 per year to $8000 per year. The Utah government found that once people were given stable homes, then provided them support to deal with issues such as mental illness and substance abuse, their rates of returning to homelessness dropped significantly.
In Australia a similar model was adopted for a three year study in Melbourne called Journey to Social Inclusion where long term homeless people were given stable, safe accommodation and then access to support services and counselling. The final report found that as many as three out of four participants were still in stable housing a year after the program ended, compared to 60% of people who received services under the old model; the need for emergency health services decreased by 80%; and there were savings to taxpayers of more than $17,000 per year, per participant.
Anglicare RAS 2015 found that out of 65,000 rental properties available on one weekend, only 2.3% were affordable for a single person on a minimum wage.
What’s our role in helping overcome challenges?
At Evolve Housing we believe in strengthening communities and in line with our strategic objectives, our staff work hard to do this, in the areas we operate and strive to constantly improve. Our latest Annual Tenant Survey results show that 1/3 of tenants believed that their neighbourhood had improved in the last year, making them feel happier and safer at home.
As a community housing provider, Evolve Housing sees its role to guide people along their journey to housing and helping them overcome challenges along the way. Evolve Housing provides opportunities for our tenants to be economically independent and socially active members of the community through programs such as employment training, education schemes, micro loans, scholarships, volunteering and household start up packs.
The 2015 Annual Tenant Survey showed 13% respondents who were employed have gained employment since becoming an Evolve Housing tenant; 31% of our residents are in training or studying; and 20% of unemployed tenants are now training or studying to improve their employment prospects. These statistics show that once people are in social housing, they reconnect with the community, placing less pressure on social and government services and reducing their own personal challenges.
While there are many issues for people experiencing homelessness to face on their Journey Home, increasingly low to middle income earners are also experiencing challenges with the escalating costs of living and housing.
Housing affordability is more and more becoming an issue for Australians, particularly those living in major cities. In 2015 the average house price in Sydney reached $1 million, with the average rental price reaching $500 per week. For many low to middle income earners, these increasing costs are impacting on their ability to fully participate in other areas of the community.
Australia needs 500,000 more affordable rental properties for low to middle-income earners.
The recent Wesley Mission Report Facing financial Stress published in May 2015 found that alarmingly 44% of households in NSW were suffering financial stress and 38% were spending more than they earn. Since 2010 Wesley Mission found a 7% increase in the number of households in financial stress. As a result of financial hardship, stress and anxiety were impacting on the wellbeing, health and safety of peoples and their family’s lives.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines Housing Stress as a person or family spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing costs. An ABS survey in 1982 found that around 10% of home owners (168,000 people), were in housing stress. In 2011 this number increased to around 21% of home owners (640,000 people) who were living in housing stress.
High housing costs are particularly a challenge for young people as they struggle to break into the property and rental market. Housing costs is one of the contributors to the high numbers of young people experiencing homelessness. This combined with little education or employment background means that young people are increasingly becoming trapped it the cycle of homelessness and disadvantage.
Evolve Housing has identified young people as priority and in the past financial year partnered with Evolve Housing for Youth (previously Western Housing for Youth) to address youth issues and to deliver the complete suite of person centred quality services to at-risk youth. Evolve Housing believes it is more beneficial and effective to intervene early with young people before they become trapped in the cycle of homelessness.
There are many challenges that people face along their journey home. Every day, Evolve Housing staff hear the inspirational stories of people who have overcome huge hurdles to get to where they are today. Throughout our annual report we will feature stories from real life tenants of Evolve Housing who have generously shared the story of their Journey Home. Their stories show that housing is so much more than just a roof over your head; it provides a safety net and support for people to rebuild their lives.