A leading Sydney charity hopes to find accommodation for nearly 10% of Sydney’s homeless, estimating they’ll save taxpayers up to $243 million with the plan which includes the issue of “social benefit bonds” by the state government.
Jewish House Crisis Centre is hoping to raise $6.2 million for “Project 2500”, launched at Parliament House today.
Rabbi Mendel Kastel, CEO of Jewish House, said the organisation already has $925,000 towards the pilot program’s estimated cost and floated the idea of the NSW Government underwriting social benefit bonds to raise the capital required.
“We’ve had initial talks with Treasury and they expressed interest and we hope to continue those discussions,” Rabbi Kastel said.
The pay off, aside from an above-market return for bond holders, would be savings for taxpayers and the NSW Government which Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) estimate at between $74 million and $243m – a return of between 12 and 39 times the project cost.
“The objective of Project 2500 is to prevent 2,500 people ending up sleeping on our streets,” Rabbi Kastel said, adding that the initiative was a response the high economic and social costs of homelessness to the inner Sydney and the Eastern Suburbs.
He hopes to get the pilot project up and running by July 1 to run over three years, although trials are already under way. In February, Jewish House helped 63 people, but were forced to turn away 21 more because they didn’t have the additional capacity to assist.
“We know it works, the costings work and the need is out there,” he said.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers were engaged by Jewish House to analyse the economic costs of homelessness and prepare the project plan. The findings in their 63-page report are both stark and staggering. They include
- There are currently 28,000 people experiencing homelessness in NSW, the highest number in the country.
- Each homeless person costs our society on average $706,000 over their lifetime, or just under $30,000 per year
- A homeless person has a life expectancy of 47 compared to the average of 82 across Australia.
You can read the full report here.
Rabbi Kastel has extensively researched American and Canadian programs on how to break the cycle of homelessness and is now calling for “immediate and effective action” to end the problem, saying homeless people need a range of support to get them back on their feet.
“You’d be surprised just how many people who are homeless are ‘frozen’ and unable to deal with things like paperwork,” he said.
Jewish House has 12 crisis beds, 14 rapid rehousing units and offers a range of counselling services to assist people.
Rabbi Kastel said the economic costs were just confined to the community services, but also law and order and healthcare as well as early intervention would dramatically improve the state’s bottom line.
“And the social benefit on people themselves, how can you ever measure that?” he said.
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