Most of us are an accident away from becoming homeless. Or an illness away. Or a job loss away.
Anyone can become homeless.
Only 15% of the homeless are those individuals we so often think of as “the homeless.” Most are families. Usually one parent families. The average age is nine.
Remember the scruffy man on the street corner holding the barely legible cardboard sign: “Will work for food?” Even if you stopped and bought him a meal, you know that’s not a real long-term solution. Right?
So, what is?
More and more states and cities are finding that by offering the homeless places to live of their own, not only helps these unfortunate individuals, it also saves the city and state money—a lot of money.
Huffington Post recently reported that Camden, N.J. will be providing apartments to the homeless. Those who have jobs will pay a portion of their rent.
The state of Utah has been providing permanent housing and case management services to their homeless population for about ten years.
This program has reduced their homeless population by 72% and has saved the state a bundle of money.
How is that possible?
In Utah, a homeless person living in shelters and eating at soup kitchens costs taxpayers $19,200 per year. The cost includes emergency room visits, health care, jail, and other expenses that are paid by taxpayers.
To provide that homeless person with a permanent home and case management services costs the taxpayers $7800 per year—a savings of $11,400 per person per year.
In Florida they found that a similar program saved the taxpayers about $21,000 per homeless person per year.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness states that providing homes for the homeless should take priority over other services.
Think about it: how much harder would it be to deal with an addiction problem or getting cleaned up for a job interview if you’re living on the streets.
Persons who are homeless spend more time in jail which is very costly to local and state governments. Often, they are in jail for “crimes” that target the homeless such as loitering, sleeping in public places, and asking passersby for a handout.
Emergency shelter is a costly alternative to permanent housing.
Studies have shown that, in real dollars, providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing saves taxpayers money.
A few examples:
A few examples:
· Seattle—a savings of $2,449 per person per month when homeless persons with severe alcohol problems and other medical and mental health issues were placed in residences instead of conventional shelters.
· Rural Portland, ME—found significant cost reductions when providing permanent supportive housing as opposed to serving the people while they remain homeless.
· Los Angeles—found that placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing saved the city more than $80,000 per year.
What You Can Do?
Check out National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The Alliance provides trainings, toolkits, webinars, and guides designed to provide practitioners and community leaders with skills and strategies to successfully understand and implement rapid re-housing as part of a larger, system-wide approach to ending homelessness.
Do we want to pass laws that throw people in jail for sitting on the sidewalk, or develop programs that can make homeless citizens into productive citizens and save money at the same time?
What are your thoughts?