How much does ending homelessness cost? Implicit in addressing this question is an empirical understanding of how much money homelessness costs society, and how much it costs to deliver successful models to end homelessness, such as permanent supportive housing. In 2016, a team of researchers sought to build a Queensland evidence base regarding (i) what is required to permanently end homelessness and (ii) how much doing so costs. Analysis of linked administrative data empirically demonstrated that ending a person’s chronic homelessness by moving them into permanent supportive housing resulted in an annual cost offset of $13,100.
Seven years on, there is an urgent need to update the evidence produced in the original 2016 study. No published peer reviewed study from Australia has been able to replicate the research design. Furthermore, the 2016 costings, although robust, require updating to take account of inflation and the contemporary cost of government services.
Based on the increase in Queensland Government expenses by 33.3% over the last 7 years, people who were chronically homeless in Brisbane would use Queensland Government services that cost approximately $64,273.26 in 2023 as opposed to $48,217 in 2016. Similarly, for the 12-month period in which those same individuals were housed through supportive housing, they are estimated to use Queensland Government services that cost an estimated $46,810.96 in 2023 compared with $35,117 in 2016. Using this information, we found that the annual cost offset would be $17,462.30 per person who moved from chronic homelessness to securely housed in 2023, compared to the cost offset of $13,100 in 2016.
In addition to providing evidence about how permanent supportive housing successfully works to end homelessness among people who are chronically homeless, the research shows the (i) high costs society directs toward responding to people who are deprived housing, and (ii) the cost offsets that can be achieved when chronic homelessness is ended. The findings foreground the importance of policy provisions to enable the delivery of permanent supportive housing programs.