A NEW Australian Government study that follows the lives of more than 1,600 Australians who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless will help shape future policy, Housing and Homelessness Minister Brendan O'Connor said yesterday.
The first results from the 'Journeys Home: Longitudinal Study of Factors Affecting Housing Stability', a two-year study being conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, were released this week at the National Homelessness Researchers Conference 2012 in Melbourne.
The government has invested $5.4 million in the project as part of the National Homelessness Research Agenda 2009-2013.
"The Labor Government has made tackling the challenges of homelessness and affordable housing a priority, and we have pledged to halve homelessness by 2020. This study will help us in our work," Mr O'Connor said.
"This is the first large-scale longitudinal study of its type in Australia. It will give us a better understanding of the causes of homelessness and its effects on people because it will follow the same group of people over time and record their experiences."
The Minister said that in order to build more effective policies and programs, there needs to be an understanding of the causes and factors that lead to homelessness.
According to the government, the study's initial results indicate that a wide cross-section of the Australian community is affected by homelessness, across many stages of life.
It found that 90 per cent of participants had been homeless at least once and half had been homeless in the past six months.
Family breakdown and conflict were the most common reasons for first becoming homeless, while a relatively low number of respondents reported mental illness and substance abuse as major factors leading to their first homeless experience.
"These findings will help us to better target our funding and resources in the future to provide better support to homelessness services," Mr O'Connor said.
'Journeys Home: Longitudinal Study of Factors Affecting Housing Stability' is a study of up to four waves, due to finish in mid-2013, that aims to determine the factors that contribute to homelessness.
More information on Journeys Home is available from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website at <http://fahcsia.gov.au/sa/housing/progserv/homelessness/Pages/lsavh.aspx>.