The health, social and economic benefits of providing public housing and support to formerly homeless people
A recent Western Australian study, undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), is the first in Australia to link health care costs to national data examining the impact of homelessness programs and public housing. The research was led by Professor Paul Flatau and Dr Lisa Wood, at the UWA Business School’s Centre for Social Impact. The study found that providing public housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness could save nearly $5,000 per person each year in health costs alone, and when coupled with support from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness program the annual saving was over $13,000 per person.
After entering a public housing tenancy, the number of people presenting to hospital and the duration and frequency of health service use fell significantly. The reduction was most notable in emergency department admissions, duration of hospital stay and use of psychiatric services for those with severe mental health issues; all of which cost the health system an enormous amount each year. Importantly, the research shows that use of mental health services significantly reduced when people who have been homeless were provided with public housing and support.
The study provides compelling evidence of the merits of more integrated solutions to homelessness and the strain on the health system and highlights how mental and physical health is profoundly impacted when people face housing insecurity and homelessness.