The cost of youth homelessness in Australia is $626 million

The Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (CSI UWA) has participated in a landmark study, which shows that early intervention could save more than $626 million per year in Australia.

The research report, Costs of Youth Homelessness in Australia, has been released today and reveals that preventing young people from becoming homeless by strengthening and integrating school and youth services at a community level could save an estimated $626 million per year across the youth justice and health services systems alone.

Currently, the cost to society from increased interactions with the health and criminal justice systems for young homeless people, exceeds the total annual cost of all homelessness services across Australia for people of all ages.

Conducted between 2011 and 2015 by leading researchers at Swinburne University in Victoria, Charles Sturt University in NSW, and the University of Western Australia, the study involved a longitudinal survey and analysis of young homeless people’s use of services to measure the financial and social costs of youth homelessness in Australia.

Drawing on welfare economics, sociology and finance theory, it is the first study of its kind anywhere in the world. It calls for a complete reform of youth homelessness policy in Australia, citing a number of innovative and successful ‘early intervention’ programs that, if rolled out nationally, would lead to millions of dollars in savings to the economy.

In 2014-2015, 41,780 young people aged 15-24 years accessed homelessness services across Australia. A significant number are forced to leave home because of family violence. Without early intervention, homelessness results in significant health risks, an increased risk of interacting with the criminal justice system and, for many who are early school leavers, the possibility of life-long disadvantage.

The three principal researchers are Associate Professor David Mackenzie (Swinburne University), Professor Paul Flatau (University of Western Australia) and Professor Adam Steen (Charles Sturt University).

The funding partners for the project are The Salvation Army, Mission Australia and Anglicare (Canberra Goulburn).