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‘Social impact’ investors support homeless

Hundreds of homeless people are already on their way to a better life under a new form of ‘social impact’ investing, a report says.

August 1, 2022
By Marion Rae
1 August 2022

Hundreds of Australians are opening the door to stable homes with the support of “social impact” investors as governments look for new ways to tackle the housing crisis.

Many with a history of chronic homelessness are well on their way to a different life under Australia’s first social impact bond targeting homelessness, according to Flinders University and University of Western Australia researchers. 

Social impact bonds involve private investors financing social service programs, with governments repaying the investors when targeted outcomes are achieved.  

The Aspire program in South Australia has provided three years of intensive support, with a final report to be released on Monday by Premier Peter Malinauskas to coincide with the start of Homelessness Week.

“Aspire is clearly a successful program which has had a positive impact on so many lives, not just helping people in their moment of crisis but setting them up for the longer term,” Malinauskas said.

Flinders University research fellow Veronica Coram said some of the participants had lost all hope by the time they came to the program.

“The final report finds Aspire was a life-changer for many participants who avoided continued rough sleeping, jail or hospitalisation, and whose health and wellbeing would otherwise have declined further,” she said.

The majority of 575 people on the three-year program have turned the corner after getting help with stable housing and support for trauma, health and mental health conditions, drug and alcohol addiction, and disability needs.

“It’s a gift that I can’t even begin to explain to you,” said one participant, who declined to be identified. 

Chair of Homelessness Australia Jenny Smith said the “dire” housing situation is at the centre of Australia’s cost-of-living crisis.

The advocacy group will release a plan in Canberra on Monday to cut rental stress in half within five years and end it by 2032.

“Building more social housing, investing in affordable rentals, lifting JobSeeker and raising Commonwealth Rent Assistance are critical to this plan,” Smith said.

Social Ventures Australia chief executive Suzie Riddell said the final report on the Aspire program will show private investment in high-quality programs can change lives, and save the taxpayer money.

She hoped sustained “wraparound support” for people experiencing homelessness for many different reasons can be used to create impact at an even greater scale.

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