Lifecourse Institutional Costs of Homelessness for Vulnerable Groups Project

Project Manager

Associate Professor Ruth McCausland (PhD, MA Int Social Development, BA (Hons) UNSW)


There is a dearth of empirical research in Australia examining the lifecourse institutional costs associated with vulnerable people who are homeless. Evidence has been mounting that vulnerable groups, in particular, persons with mental health disorders and cognitive disability (MHDCD) who experience clusters of disadvantageous circumstances, are over-represented amongst those coming to the attention of police and being serially arrested and incarcerated. People in these groups are morely likely to use alcohol and other drugs and be homeless or marginally housed. Persons in this group are often caught in a vicious criminal justice cycle with the costs to the person and the community estimated to be very high.

This study took an empirical approach to calculating the economic costs of the pathways of eleven individuals who had cycled in and out of homelessness, using the MHDCD Dataset containing their interactions with housing, health, community services and criminal justice agencies. This study developed pathways costings using the MHDCD Dataset that contains data on lifelong interventions and interactions with all criminal justice and some human services agencies that are available for a cohort of 2,731 people who have been in prison in NSW and whose MHDCD diagnoses are known. This study's purpose was to contribute to understanding the real costs associated with this group's homelessness and criminal justice involvement and to support alternative policy and program responses.

The project was funded by FaHCSIA through its National Homelessness Research Agenda 2009-2013. The final report was launched on 24 October 2012 at the Barnados Auburn Children's Family Centre by then-Federal Minister for Homelessness Brendan O'Connor.