MHDCD Project

MHDCD Project Studies

Lifecourse Institutional Costs of Homelessness for Vulnerable Groups Project

Project Manager:
Dr 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 more 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 takes an empirical approach to calculating the economic costs of the pathways of eleven individuals who have cycled in and out of homelessness, using the Mental Health and Cognitive Disability in the Criminal Justice System (MHDCD) Dataset containing their interactions with housing, health, community services and criminal justice agencies. This study developed pathway 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 is to contribute to understanding the real costs associated with this group’s homelessness and criminal justice involvement and to alternative policy and program responses.

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

Executive Summary available here.

AHURI Homelessness Research Conference 2012: Lifecourse interactions and interventions for people compouding disabilities and disadvantages including homelessness available here.

Professor Eileen Baldry on Radio National Drive 24th October 2012 - Cost of Homelessness Counted. 

Ruth McCausland, Eileen Baldry, Sarah Johnson and Anna Cohen 'People with mental health disorders and cognitive impairment in the criminal justice system: Cost-benefit analysis of early support and diversion' Report

Eileen Baldry, Leanne Dowse, Ruth McCausland and Melissa Clarence 'The lifecourse institutional costs of homelessness for vulnerable groups' Report

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