Funding should be restored to the Victorian Social Housing Advocacy Support Program (SHASP) in the wake of a report that found 78% of public housing tenants supported by the program avoided eviction and 73% engaged in repaying rent debts.
A state-wide data collection project conducted from July – September 2013 by the SHASP managers’ network confirmed SHASP saves tenancies and money from the public purse.
Despite significant cuts to funding in 2012 (from $7.4 million to $4.7 million) the survey, a first of its kind, demonstrates the social and economic benefits of providing support to public housing tenants whose tenancies are at risk.
SHASP is a cost effective program that works. It is a vital service for both public housing tenants and the public housing system. The program has demonstrated that it effectively engages with tenants to get back on track with rental payments and other obligations.
The paper details the successful case management model and states a case for SHASP to be expanded to support more tenants living in public housing and those living in community housing. We know that giving people support as early as often means that people avoid slipping into homelessness. The model really deserves the support of government and should be expanded to assist people living in private rental as well.
The three-month study found 60% of clients sustained their tenancy and another 18% were still being supported by the program. Just 3% of clients were evicted or relinquishing their tenancy. The 24 known evictions during this study period could be compared to those figures released by DHS for 2012-2013 of 304 actual ‘forced evictions’.
Supporting an evicted tenant through homelessness services has been identified by one DHS study to cost upward of $34,000. SHASP is a cost effective service calculated at approximately $1,958 per client. Cuts to SHASP by the Napthine government in 2012 occurred weeks after it was advised the program was one of the main reasons Victoria was meeting national partnership agreement targets to reduce homelessness.
The 37% cut to SHASP funding in 2012 significantly reduced our capacity to help people in public housing keep their tenancies. Victoria wide we are now only able to support 2,400 tenants per year, compared with 5,470 applications by DHS orders of possession warrants in the 2012-2013 period.
Regional areas are particularly affected by funding cuts and the challenges of delivering a service to vast geographical regions.