In Summary

  • New Swinburne led research finds sources of funding for homelessness services in Australia are complex
  • Diverse funding creates benefits but also comes with additional administrative and accountability costs
  • Research conducted in partnership with Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)

New research led by Swinburne has highlighted the complexity of funding for homelessness services in Australia. 

Homelessness services receive funding from diverse sources, primarily government, but also philanthropy, corporate sponsorship, donations and new forms such as social enterprises and social impact bonds. 

This diverse funding creates benefits, such as the ability for homelessness services to pilot new initiatives, but also comes with additional administrative and accountability costs. Managing multiple sources of funding has real costs for these organisations, which in turn affects the delivery of their services. 

The report, ‘The funding and delivery of programs to reduce homelessness: the case study evidence’ was undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Western Australia and the University of New South Wales. 

“These findings serve as somewhat of a ‘reality check’, identifying some promising possibilities but also signalling the limitations of alternative sources of funding for the delivery of homelessness services,” lead author Swinburne Associate Professor David MacKenzie says.   

The report also found investment by homelessness services in early intervention and breaking the cycle of homelessness are associated with cost savings over time, but these two strategic policy areas remain under-developed. 

 “Our research focused on nine case studies that used different service models, organisational forms and potential new ways of funding services for the homeless,” Associate Professor MacKenzie says.   

“We also investigated new forms of non-government funding such as social enterprises and social impact bonds. Typically, social enterprises underwrite ancillary or additional support services. Few homelessness agencies are in a position to develop financially successful social enterprises. 

“There are a number of trials underway throughout the world of social impact bonds, which promote a business investment model for obtaining private capital investment. Our research shows that, to be effective, agencies must work out what is most appropriate for this kind of funding, what its limits are and how the outcomes can be measured.” 

The research report is available to download from the AHURI website.   

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