Brisbane Common Ground

It costs more to keep someone homeless

The Institute for Social Science Research’s (ISSR) comprehensive evaluation of the Brisbane Common Ground project reveals that governments can save in excess of $13,000 per person each year, if they provide the chronically homeless with access to secure, long term housing and relevant support services.

The project showed that people who suffer from chronic homelessness often have complex needs relating to health, disabilities, abuse, and addiction, resulting in high costs associated with emergency medical and policing resources. Supporting homeless people through a combination of safe housing and targeted services, as provided by Brisbane Common Ground, resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of services required, delivering high cost savings to the community.

The project research team suggest that savings made from the reduced demand for acute services can be reinvested into services that will help people continue to sustain housing and prevent a return to homelessness.

Additionally, the evaluation provided evidence that when people who have been homeless begin to identify as a tenant – as opposed to being homeless, ill or a criminal – they started to access services that further helped to increase their autonomy and minimise their chances of becoming homeless again in the future.

ISSR’s expert assessment clearly demonstrates the economic benefits of investing in supportive housing to assist people suffering chronic homelessness, and the sizable value such initiatives deliver for both the government and community.

Project partners

What is the Brisbane Common Ground (BCG)?

BCG is a supportive housing project that provides people experiencing chronic homelessness with access to secure, long-term accommodation and the relevant supporting services to assist them transition out of homelessness permanently.

The BCG model consists of:

  • Housing management – provided by Common Ground Queensland
  • Support services – provided by Micah Projects
  • Concierge service – provided by Common Ground Queensland and Micah Projects

Scope of the evaluation

ISSR examined BCG's effectiveness in ending homelessness for its tenants, and investigated the impact this supportive housing project had on the lives of the tenants, support staff and the community as a whole.

Researchers used a variety of evaluation methods including post-occupancy evaluation of the design and built environment (such as participant observations and behavioural mapping), longitudinal surveys with tenants on their lived experience and personal outcomes over time, and cost-effectiveness analysis of administrative records. 

Key findings

  • The community saved $13,100 annually per tenant by providing them with access to supportive housing
  • Tenants in supportive housing experienced less:
    • mental health episodes
    • days as an admitted patient
    • visits to the emergency department
    • interactions with the police (both as a victim and offender)
    • nights spent in custody
  • Reducing the amount of acute services demanded from police and hospitals frees funds that could be reinvested into services which help people remain in housing permanantly
  • Once residents began to identify as tenants, as opposed to being homeless, ill or a criminal, they started to access a range of different services, including those which helped to increase their autonomy

Read the Brisbane Common Ground - Evaluation Snapshot (PDF, 1.7MB)

Read the full report (PDF, 1.5MB)

Supportive Housing: Data Linkages, Cost Offsets, and Public Policy

Presentation delivered by Dr Cameron Parsell on 8 November 2016 at the Data Linkage Symposium 2016


​The research was led by Associate Professor Cameron Parsell. Cameron's primary area of research at ISSR is homelessness, supportive housing and social welfare. His focus is to find solutions that can end homelessness, exclusion and deprivation. His research is bolstered by front-line experience as a social worker in homeless accommodation, social housing and child protection. He collaborates closely with social welfare groups, community organisations, social housing providers and governments across Australia.

Cameron has recently been awarded a UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award for his demonstrated excellence, promise of future research success, and leadership potential in the social sciences field.