The funding and delivery of homelessness services: a case study evidence

October 2015

NDARC: A/Prof Lucinda Burns & Elizabeth Whittaker

Other investigators: 

Prof Paul Flatau (UWA); A/Prof David McKenzie (Swinburne University of Technology); Dr Angela Spinney (Swinburne University of Technology); Dr Kylie Valentine (UNSW); A/Prof Daphne Habibis (The University of Tasmania); Dr Kaylene Zaretzky (UWA); Ms Alicia Bauskis (UWA); Dr Andrea Sharam (Swinburne University of Technology); Prof Adam Steen (Swinburne University of Technology); Dr Sean McNelis (Swinburne University of Technology)

Project description: 

This study provides evidence on the mix of government and non-government direct and indirect funding in the homelessness service system and across mainstream services and enterprises supporting the homeless and examines how the funding of homelessness services influences service provision and outcomes for homeless people.


Australia’s services supporting homeless people are provided principally by non-government organisations. The evidence from the work of Flatau and Zaretzky (AHURI projects 80306 and 82014) is that specialist homelessness services are funded largely by government (including both homelessness specific and mainstream funding sources), but that they also rely on other funding sources including own-revenue sources such as rental income. And, while it is a relatively easy matter to add up all Australian Government and State/Territory recurrent funding of specialist homelessness services, it is much more difficult to estimate the level of government capital funding, the government funding of complementary mainstream services and the role played by philanthropic funding and organizational reserves in funding services for the homeless.

There are also new developments in the funding of homelessness services that are of significant policy interest. For example, internationally, we have seen the introduction of the use of social impact bonds to fund homelessness services through a payment by results mechanism and private investor sources (e.g., the £5 million London Rough Sleeping Social Impact Bond program which began in 2012). Both in Australia and elsewhere we have also seen social enterprises spring up whose prime social mission is supporting homeless people to gain employment and develop their own businesses.

The aims of this Inquiry are to:

  • Fill the significant gap in our knowledge base on the mix of funding for homelessness service delivery;
  • Understand the important linkages that exist between funding sources, service delivery and outcomes for homeless people; and,
  • Develop policy options and a framework for the funding of homelessness services in Australia.

Design and method:

The Inquiry will be conducted in three stages:

  • Stage 1: The development of the Inquiry Framework: The Inquiry Panel and Inquiry Paper

  • Stage 2: The conduct of three integrated Research Projects incorporating a national focus group process

  • Stage 3: The Inquiry Assessment of the Evidence from the Research Projects and delivery of a Final Inquiry Report.