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Hutt St Centre welcomes Govt review into homelessness program


The Hutt Street Centre says it is not concerned about an upcoming State Government review into one of its homelessness programs, claiming it has saved taxpayers $5.69 million over three years by keeping vulnerable people off the streets.

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The State Government opened a tender this week calling for companies to conduct an independent evaluation into the Aspire Program, which the Hutt Street Centre has run since 2017.

The $9 million program, which was initially funded by private investors and supported by the Government, helps people experiencing homelessness to find stable housing.

It also provides intensive case management to people before and after they are housed to ensure that they receive health, wellbeing, training and employment support to keep them out of hospital, the justice system and emergency homelessness accommodation.

The review is required as part of a contractual agreement that was signed between the Government and private investors when the Aspire program was launched.

Treasurer Rob Lucas told InDaily that the Aspire Program was achieving “clear benefits” by keeping vulnerable people off the streets.

He said the review would give the Government a “broader understanding” of the program’s impact, whether the service was appropriate and whether its eligibility criteria was suitable.

“The Aspire social impact bond is a trial of a new type of service in South Australia.  It is much more intensive – and lasts much longer – than other services for people experiencing homelessness,” Lucas said.

“The Government will use the results of the evaluation to inform future decisions about service delivery.”

According to the Hutt Street Centre, the Aspire program supported 430 people between 2017 and June last year, with 55 per cent of those placed in housing.

Of those in housing, 88 per cent maintained their tenancies.

A Deloitte analysis released by the Hutt Street Centre showed over the three years to June, 1288 hospital bed days, 212 convictions and 453 emergency accommodation periods were avoided, saving taxpayers $5.69 million.

It estimated that the program could save the Government up to $20 million if the program keeps running beyond seven years.

“The program does work, so we’re saying bring on the evaluation to demonstrate how good the program is,” Hutt Street Centre CEO Chris Burns said.

“We’ve independently evaluated the program and it’s successful – it does achieve the savings and that’s what we’re hopeful that it (the Government review) will say.

“Hopefully that will be the motivation for the Government to say right, let’s kick it on as an ongoing program.”

Under the existing arrangement, the Aspire program will stop taking in new clients in June this year, but funding will continue until June 2024 at a reduced rate as people exit the program.

The Hutt Street Centre wants the Government to keep funding the program beyond 2024, so it can help more people leave homelessness.

“We say, when you’ve demonstrated through the program and hopefully through this evaluation the success of it, why don’t we keep that capability existing so that we can continue to make the savings,” Burns said.

Opposition Human Services spokesperson Nat Cook questioned the use of taxpayers’ money on the evaluation.

“As part of the program funding model, independent evaluations have been done,” she said.

“This review is not good use of taxpayer money.  Why is a second “Independent” review necessary? 

“We are in the midst of a housing availability crisis and we need all hands on deck.

“It’s ridiculous that the government waits for 5 minutes before midnight to say they will consider the effectiveness of the Aspire program.”

The Government is yet to determine the cost of the review.

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