18 Apr 2024

Housing programme leads to 'impressive' long-term change in health and wellbeing

3:24 pm on 18 April 2024
Aerial view of Hamilton and the Waikato river.

Photo: Hamilton & Waikato Tourism

A programme helping homeless people into housing has led to a dramatic improvement in health, justice, income and employment outcomes, new research shows.

The study run by Otago University looked at 387 people who had been part of a Housing First programme, run by The People's Project in Hamilton - which facilitates access to permanent housing and consistent specialist support.

Over five years, hospitalisations fell by 44 percent, the number of nights spent at mental health units reduced by 63 percent, and there were 43 percent fewer criminal charges.

Meanwhile, incomes grew, as did the number of months people paid tax.

The results indicated improved management of ongoing health conditions, and reduced reliance on emergency or acute services, lead researcher Professor Nevil Pierse said.

"This is better for individuals' quality of life and lessens the burden on our health care system."

The People's Project's approach meant people had far better access to the services they need, and that was partly down to the level of trust people had in the organisation, he said.

"Overall we're showing a very impressive long-term change in people's health and wellbeing.

"The People's Project took the philosophy of no matter what the person's problem is, they were going to deal with it, and they were going to address them as the person."

That compared to other services - like government agencies - that were "quite siloed", leaving people struggling to get help, in a complex system of constantly being referred from one agency to another, he said.

The "exceptional" five-year results not only sustained, but improved upon, earlier two-year results, The People's Project general manager Kerry Hawkes said.

"From our experience, we see every day that the Housing First approach works, and that many people's lives improve over time with consistent specialist support," she said.

"This research confirms our understanding."

The research was only funded for five years, but Pierse wanted to continue for another five to track the difference permanent housing can make over a longer period of time.

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