Australia Case Study: Court to Home


Best Practice | February 1, 2012

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Court to Home Best Practice

Court to Home is a program which assists people experiencing or at risk of homelessness who are going through the Special Circumstances Court Diversion Program in Brisbane, Australia.  This court was created as part of the Queensland government’s goal to reduce homelessness, and is specifically designed to take in people who have impaired capacity to make decisions (for reasons such as mental illness), and people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Court to Home workers visit the court and receive referrals from the Magistrate; they then act quickly and efficiently to house the people with which they come in contact. It is a program of Micah Projects, a community organisation that provides a range of support and advocacy services to individuals, youth, and families.  Court to Home uses the court system to engage people at the right time, when they are very much in need of assistance and ready to be housed, and employs a wealth of partnerships to house them and sustain their tenancies. 

People who have entered the Special Circumstances Court for reasons such as theft or drugs are given a case worker who refers each individual to the type of support that they see fit.  They are referred to Micah’s Court to Home staff if they have housing instability issues. Once under the care of the Court to Home staff, clients are placed into stable housing as quickly as possible.  After being housed, the staff continues outreach work to make sure people are able to maintain their tenancies.  If other issues arise, the Court to Home team will often refer their clients to other teams within Micah Projects.

The workers of Court to Home regularly attend the Special Circumstances Court, and are always accessible there.  They also have an office in the Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre, a hub that provides job services, family support, and emergency support. Most of their work, however, is done through assertive outreach; wherever the client wants to meet is where they go.  They are able to do this work with only two full-time staff members. 

Court to Home was founded in 2009, and the funding comes directly from a larger, recurring government grant to Micah for its homeless services.  Direct costs for the program are quite low, including two staff members and transportation. 

Court to Home has two levels of partnerships.  One partnership is with all the individual groups that work alongside Court to Home in the Special Circumstances Court.  Every time a staff member of Court to Home is in the court, they are connecting with these services to make sure that each person going through the court is getting all the help they need.  The services within the court include various services for youth and survivors of domestic violence as well as housing and emergency services.  Court to Home works alongside all of these groups in order to make sure that people are not returning to the court.  Court to Home also has partnerships outside of the court, including with members of the Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre. 

Although it only has two full-time staff members, in the 2009-2010 fiscal year Court to Home served 67 individuals.  The 67 individuals experienced a variety of problems, including financial turmoil, housing instability, and mental health and substance abuse issues. Court to Home aided all of them with their housing so that they were able to be placed into some type of accommodation.  Of this, 46 percent had private rentals, 13 percent were in community housing, and the rest were in short-term accommodation, moving toward more stable housing.  After they were housed, Court to Home worked with individuals until they were able to sustain tenancy, with the hope of not return to court again.  In other words, everyone who worked with Court to Home was assisted with housing placement and assisted in sustaining their tenancies. 

The Court to Home program, and the high-level outcomes that it produces, is a strong example of the power of accessing people when they are ready to receive aid and services.  Court to Home is also a good example of how assertive outreach and aid creates the best solutions.  Finally, Court to Home exhibits the strength of solid and active partnerships when helping people who often have a variety of needs:  a small staff linked to the resources of a large organization and to public services is able to quickly and assertively get people in housing.