Safe and sound? How funding mix affects homelessness support for Indigenous Australians
Authors: Angela Spinney; Daphne Habibis; Sean McNelis
Date published: 21 Dec 2016
Published by: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited
The impact of mixed funding sources on homelessness support for Indigenous Australians forms one part of the research program in the AHURI Inquiry into the funding of homelessness services in Australia, which aims to understand the mix of government and non-government funding and how the funding of services that support people who are experiencing homelessness influences service provision and outcomes for those people.
Indigenous Australians are 14 times more likely to become homeless than other Australians, and their homelessness situations are likely to be more severe. This research examines the extent to which the needs of homeless and at-risk Indigenous Australians are being met.
The research used relevant findings from the AHURI Australian homelessness funding and delivery survey (Flatau, Zaretzky et al. 2016) plus five case-studies and three focus groups. Twenty-seven organisations with Indigenous Australians as a main client group participated in the survey.
Findings in this research show that financial support to organisations that provide services to Indigenous Australians experiencing homelessness is primarily provided by governments through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) which funds Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS), with 94 per cent of funds from governments and the next largest source of funds (only 2%) from rent revenue.
No federal or state program specifically targets supporting homeless Indigenous people or those at risk of experiencing homelessness. Services for homeless Indigenous people are overwhelmingly ‘mainstreamed’, with SHS funds going to Indigenous organisations but no targeted support or coordination with programs which are targeted at Indigenous Australians.
Funding uncertainty is a major issue, and the problems (including operational inefficiency, inability of organisations to innovate, and impacts on staff recruitment and retention) caused by this precarity are notably similar, regardless of the location or type of service, with larger organisations best placed to cope.
Homeless Indigenous Australians may not be receiving the kinds of support which are best suited to them, and current support may not be culturally appropriate.
More than half of the survey respondents anticipate that negative consequences such as excessive reporting would result from attempting to further diversify their funding sources, including seeking funds from non-NAHA/NPAH sources.