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  • Housing insecurity greater for people with mental health or substance misuse issues
  • Housing first model 'strongly endorsed'
  • Some variations needed to account for unique challenges

The latest research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) showed people with mental health and substance misuse issues accessing residential treatment are at greater risk of housing insecurity.

It is tough to ensure everyone has a place to call home, especially with the severe housing shortages across the country, high housing prices, and tradie shortages too.

The proposed solution is called ‘housing first’.

Before jumping into the research, it’s not the first time the concept of housing first has been mentioned.

Earlier in July, The Property Tribune reported on the strategy that was the globally accepted method to solve homelessness.

Project Coordinator for Emplace, Dr Liz Pattison OAM, said homelessness is not a ‘wicked problem’.

A wicked problem was defined as a problem without a solution, “no matter how hard we try”.

Providing permanent housing to homeless individuals, alongside a raft of support measures is the way forward, with the success rate of the solution in between 80% to 90%.

The AHURI research specifically considered housing, health and social care supports for individuals leaving residential treatment for mental health or substance use problems.

Associate Professor Cameron Duff of RMIT University said:

“Failure to adequately plan for and support safe transitions from residential treatment into secure and affordable housing can have catastrophic consequences for individuals leaving care, with strong impacts on their housing security, their health and wellbeing, and their economic and social participation in the community.”

Associate Professor Cameron Duff, RMIT University

The research “strongly endorsed the housing first model”, finding that young people are less appealing to community housing providers given their relative income insecurity, while social housing often locks tenants into a particular location, reducing their geographic mobility.

Housing first in this instance notes that the house is provided “even before other forms of psychiatric or drug rehabilitation are provided.”

The solution may need a small tweak though, the research suggested: “a more portable type of housing assistance for young people might be required.”

Stronger supports are also needed. The report said private rental accommodation can be severely disrupted for those who experience multiple or longer hospitalisations.

While housing may look secure from some perspectives, the research found it “does not necessarily make their housing ‘safe’ or appropriate in terms of their health or recovery.”

For example, elements like “living close to other drug users who might influence a patient’s treatment from addiction,” were often overlooked in planning and transition discussions.

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