The Economic Roundtable just came out with the largest study on homelessness in American history. “The Economic Roundtable is a non-profit, public benefit corporation conducting applied economic, social and environmental research that contributes to the sustainability of individuals and communities.” (http://economicrt.org)
And it sounds like a no-brainer – the best way to combat homelessness is to provide homes! The study focused on Santa Clara County, California, with the contrasts of the wealth of Silicon Valley and the highest percentage of homelessness in all of the US. Researchers analyzed information about everyone in Santa Clara County who had been homeless between 2007 and 2012: 104,206 people.
Santa Clara County spent $520 million on services for homeless residents with costs related to healthcare, social welfare and the justice system. It’s a lot of money, so giving them homes seems like a logical solution. And most of the costs were from roughly 2,800 people who were persistently homeless.
The study talks about the efforts of the nonprofit Destination: Home, which helped house 400 of the people tracked in the report. Before being housed, they created public costs of $62,500 a year. And housing cost less than $20,000 per person. Therefore, the savings more than offset the costs of housing. So the authors of the report argue that the best way to tackle homelessness is to identify the people who use community resources the most and give them homes.
This strategy is known as Housing First, which was first proposed by New York University psychologist Sam Tsemberis in 1992. The theory was tested on 242 homeless people in NYC. Five years later, 88% were still living in their apartments at a lower cost to taxpayers and the state government. (Recipients of houses via this program get to keep their houses even if they abuse drugs and alcohol and are not able to hold down jobs.)
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
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