L-R: Peter Gianfrancesco (Neami National), Debbie Georgopoulos (Women's Housing Company), The Hon Natasha Maclaren-Jones, Minister for Families and Communities, and Minister for Disability Services, Rebecca Pinkstone (Bridge Housing) and Julie Harrison (Metro Community Housing)

Homelessness is a complicated issue to solve. But an independent evaluation of the Step to Home program has shown that positive – and lasting – change is possible with the right approach. 

Step to Home is a program aimed at housing ‘rough’ or street sleepers, run by community housing providers Bridge Housing, Women’s Housing Company and Metro Community Housing in partnership with mental health service provider Neami National and funded by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). The program is based on the principle of ‘Housing First’, which states that only once stable, permanent housing is obtained can other underlying and often complex issues be appropriately addressed.

Having partnered on Sydney’s original Housing First pilot program in 2011, Bridge Housing and Neami National have gone on to refine and improve service delivery over the past decade, delivering integrated homelessness services that have helped more than 250 people in Sydney secure long-term housing.

Now an independent study has measured the outcomes and confirmed what was intuitively known: that the Housing First approach and the Step to Home program work.

In 2020, Bridge Housing and Neami National commissioned the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) at the University of NSW to evaluate the Step to Home program. The CSI report was launched today by The Hon Natasha Maclaren-Jones, Minister for Families and Communities, and Minister for Disability Services.

The findings of the report, authored by researchers Chris Hartley and Emma Barnes, include:

  • 85% of Step to Home participants were still housed at the end of the study period.
  • 72% of participants indicated that their health had improved since being in the program.
  • The employment rate of participants increased from 3.2% to 22.3% since being housed.
  • Participants reported improvement in personal wellbeing, social connections and community engagement.
  • Emergency room and hospital visits, as well as court appearances and probation dropped significantly.

Mrs Maclaren-Jones said the findings were a great example of how effective partnerships between government and the community sector can achieve positive results.

“These findings show that both immediate participants and the wider community are benefitting from these programs.”

Bridge Housing CEO Rebecca Pinkstone said that the report was a welcome validation of the work that has been done over the past decade to establish a more permanent, ongoing program to address homelessness in Sydney.

“We know from experience that Housing First works. That’s why Bridge Housing has focused our efforts to support people moving straight from the street to home. Our specialised tenancy management, combined with wraparound support provided by Neami, ends homelessness and transforms lives,” said Ms Pinkstone.

Neami National’s NSW State Manager, Peter Gianfrancesco concurs.

“Simply housing people and leaving them to it, or trying to deliver mental health services for rough sleepers can have limited success,” he said. “It’s the combination of giving people a secure base, then providing the individual support they need consistently over time that achieves the best outcomes.”

Bridge Housing CEO, Rebecca Pinkstone summed up the success of the program: “We believe that homelessness is solvable,” she said. “We have an evidence-based approach that works and with the continued support of government and the community, we can make a real difference in people’s lives.”

That difference is best summed up by Step to Home participant Andrew, who spoke at the launch about what having a home means to him.

“It means everything. It’s the place where I go to get my dignity back,” he said. “I was on the streets at ten years old living under a bridge.”

As for his plans for the future, Andrew is clear: “I want to try and make sure there’s not such a thing as homelessness by the time I pass.”


Read the full evaluation report here:  pdf STEP to Home Final Evaluation Report (1.06 MB)