The Aspire Program: finding vulnerable people a place to call home

In August this year, John* stood in front of his new home in Adelaide, overwhelmed.

John had a long history of homelessness. The 49-year-old had been bouncing between temporary accommodation, sleeping on the street, and in cars. Last year he was assaulted while sleeping rough and acquired a brain injury that led to an extended hospital stay.

The injury affected John’s memory, mood and ability to function independently. After being discharged from hospital, John was staying at a short term shelter in the Adelaide CBD and soon after, went back to sleeping rough.

When he was referred to the Aspire Program, which is funded by the Aspire Social Impact Bond (Aspire SIB), John was experiencing primary homelessness, alcohol dependence, mental health issues including anxiety & depression, and was still suffering as a result of his assault.

Through the Aspire Program, John started working intensively with a Navigator (Aspire’s term for ‘case manager’) and tenancy officer to address his housing needs. John was offered a one bedroom unit through Junction Housing in August, which he accepted with the support of his Aspire Navigator.

In addition to the provision of stable accommodation, the Aspire Program has assisted John to engage with drug and alcohol counselling and a range of other medical services including dental, optical and GP services. John has also been connected to local community services, including a church nearby to his new house. Once he is settled in his new accommodation, John and his Navigator will be working together to help him prepare to re-enter the workforce.

Today John is still in his home, thanks to ongoing support from the team at Hutt Street Centre, an Adelaide-based specialist homelessness service provider. That support is made possible thanks to the Aspire Program.

Social Ventures Australia, in partnership with the South Australian government, launched the Aspire SIB, South Australia’s first social impact bond, earlier this year. It provides Hutt Street Centre with $9 million in private investor capital to deliver a program that focuses on finding homes, and providing life skills and employment pathways for vulnerable people.

Hutt Street Centre CEO Ian Cox has been involved with the specialist homelessness service provider in some capacity or another, for almost 30 years.

The Aspire SIB, Cox says, provides a model which enables Hutt Street to provide ongoing support to people like John that isn’t ordinarily possible.

“It allows us to be relentless in our approach,” Cox says.

“That’s the beauty of the program, and what we love”.

“Compared to our other programs, where we get lots of housing outcomes, but generally can’t follow up for long enough. Here’s a situation where we’ve been able to follow up.

“We’re not going to give up on him. There may well be times where he may struggle with certain things, but we’re able to be there all the way with him.”

The Aspire SIB has allowed Hutt Street Centre to partner with Government to fund the Aspire Program on an outcomes basis, with investors providing the upfront capital and sharing in the risk that outcomes are not achieved.

“We think the Aspire Program itself is quite transformational, but I actually think working with SVA has been quite transformational too as an organisation, it’s made us a far better org,” Cox says.

“It’s made us more diligent, it’s made us think a lot clearer about the data. It’s refocused us on outcomes. A lot of our funding programs are generally output related. So having a program and getting refocused on outcomes and people has been fantastic.”

*SVA is withholding John’s real name out of respect for his privacy.