Sacred Heart: Homelessness research reveals effects of intensive support

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Sacred Heart Mission
A recent study has offered unique insight into the lives of people trapped in the cycle of homelessness, and the benefits of long-term interventions.

The study included three years of interviews with people affected by homelessness details how their lives dramatically benefitted from housing and being able to keep that home with three-years of intensive support.

Coinciding with this year’s Homelessness Week theme ‘everybody needs a home’, Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) released a Qualitative Study by Swinburne Associate Professor Monica Thielking demonstrating its Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program is a successful integrated approach to solving chronic homelessness.

Monica, who is a registered psychologist, qualified youth worker and Chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences at Swinburne University, explains she interviewed a randomised control group and J2SI participants from the program’s Phase Two, which ran from 2016-19, to gain an in-depth understanding about the systemic barriers homeless people face when trying to integrate back into society.

‘Often, they had to cope with a multitude of negative factors present in the housing that they were allocated by homelessness agencies, such as neighbouring residents’ or housemates’ substance use,’ Monica says.

‘The majority of J2SI participants spoke positively about the impact that the J2SI program had on their lives, with seven out of 10 reporting they had secured permanent housing and felt supported by case managers to prioritise their particular needs.
‘Well, accommodation. I have got steady accommodation,’ says one participant of the benefits of the J2SI Phase Two program. ‘The case manager got me a nice place and I like it. That's the biggest advantage I’ve had. I’ve been there nearly three years. If you know where you're gonna lay your head every night, where you're gonna get a feed from, it does take a lot of stress out of you. It takes a lot of stress out of your life.’

Another participant comments, ‘I actually had somebody that was an advocate for myself, rather than trying to have to do everything myself. I’d be back on the streets if that was the case.’
‘When people achieved positive improvements in relation to their mental health, substance use and employment, participants said having the safety and stability of a permanent house was the main reason they could rebuild their lives,’ Monica says.

A majority of people in Monica’s study spoke openly about needing more than just a ‘roof over one’s head’ but an actual home, and also praised their case managers who provided intensive support and advocated for them during times of vulnerability.

‘The J2SI program improved the quality of participants’ lives in several tangible ways by assisting them to meet their everyday survival needs,’ Monica says.

‘In many cases, this meant help for people to finally obtain safe, stable and appropriate housing as well as supporting them to manage complex health and social needs that had often gone unaddressed.’

Throughout the interviews, Monica says the participants’ recurring answers expressed how they wanted some choice in a safe, accessible place to call their own and for their homes to be adequately furnished and close to services as well as public transport.

‘An integral component of the J2SI program is being available for people who experience chronic homelessness and putting the individual’s needs at the centre of service provision,’ Monica says.

‘The report highlights a need for homelessness service providers and the service system more generally to provide a streamlined, integrated, client-centred and quality service that anchors individuals in safe, secure and appropriate housing, which the J2SI program has been successfully doing over several years.’

Monica says the groundbreaking J2SI model could be replicated on a larger scale across Australia and end the homelessness problem.

‘With further investment and refinement of the model, J2SI has the potential to support people throughout Australia to exit homelessness and to build meaningful lives in safe, stable accommodation,’ Monica says.

Sacred Heart Mission shares this vision and learnings will be used to improve the program and enable scaling up of J2SI nationally to support people out of homelessness through the J2SI Evaluation and Learning Centre (ELC).
To read the report in full visit the Sacred Heart Mission here.  
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