Monday, March 24, 2014

Do you remember?

Do you remember this post, Homelessness, where I said
How many of you knew that Utah will likely end homelessness by the end of next year (2015).  I was surprised to hear that, given how conservative the state appears on the surface.  I jokingly shared the link on my facebook stating that Utah was a haven for socialism.  Really, it was a money saving scheme, but hey socialism is socialism.  Turns out that Utah did some research and found nearly a $5,000 savings in ER costs alone, when they outright gave apartments to homeless persons or families (http://www.nationswell.com/one-state-track-become-first-end-homelessness-2015/).

Well, I am back to this, for all the homeless of this nation.  Turns out Utah is not a one stop visit on this train.  It is actually becoming more prevalent.  Turns out way back in 2012 Charlotte in North Carolina did something very similar to what Utah is doing now.  Guess what?  It worked.  It cost them money to put in the units, but they are saving money.  See, the residents put in 30% of their income, and they get a place to live.  While this is different from the Utah plan, as best as I can tell, the savings are similar.  In one year it saved 1.8 million dollars in taxes.  Why you ask?  Because out of the initial 85 units built, only 15 tenants have been asked to leave.  But it goes deeper than that.  Arrest rates amongst the homeless dropped a staggering 78%.  Emergency room visits by the homeless dropped by nearly 500.  Less frost bite, hypothermia,etc which require medical treatment.

Now it does cost, its not free, but the cost is around $14,000 a year per occupant, but remember, they are also chipping in on rent.  Ultimately it seems that it is cheaper to help the homeless who want a home, get into a home, rather than leave them struggling on the streets.  But we do not have to look at Utah, or North Carolina to see this.  We can look at other studies of the same issue. 

Look at Florida, which tends to jail its homeless.  Actually lets zoom in on one county in the state, Osceola.  In the last decade it has spent 5 million dollars on just 37 repeat quality of life offenders.  The cost to put them in housing...  Around 3 million dollars a decade.  That would leave 2 million dollars for other things, like infrastructure, more law enforcement, better schools.  The things that really matter.

Lets look at Colorado.  As of today it costs around 44,000 dollars to take care of the homeless.  But, with the reopening of a closed prison as housing units for the homeless.  This is expected to cut that figure by over half.  Yes half before its opened, which doesn't mean a thing.  Sure, I could crow about how its going to save so much money, but in Colorado we do not know, just yet.  Its all in how the program is funded and operated.  However, with three states showing that housing the homeless are actually saving money, it might work in Colorado.

And if it works in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Utah why are we not doing this in more places.