“Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets[1]

“[ … ] Counting the homeless is, of course, a critical element to making appropriate homelessness policy. But good policy also requires greater awareness of a discovery that research continuously confirms — it’s cheaper to fix homelessness by giving homeless people homes to live in than to let the homeless live on the streets and try to deal with the subsequent problems.

The most recent report along these lines was a May Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicating that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person[2] on “the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues.”

By contrast, getting each homeless person a house and a caseworker to supervise their needs would cost about $10,000 per person.”

I assume the reason this obvious solution has not been more widely implemented is that the existing system is composed of a collection of service providers, funding sources, and administrative agencies. These agencies cooperate and collaborate, but they are not centrally managed as a single integrated system, and therefore, the savings occur within each individual agency, but there is no way to aggregate or accrue them across all of the service providers. The solution appears to be finding some organization or individual to take the lead and deliver a better integrated program that manages the system for less money.

Homeless Heroes

Homelessness in general is a shameful fact in America, but homeless veterans take that shame down to deplorable. These vets believed in and fought for ‘The American Dream’ while the rest of us benefitted from their service and sacrifice. It seems unconscionable that we cannot put in place the programs needed to assist these heroes to become productive and prosperous members of society. Here are a few basic facts to quantify the problem.

“Veteran Homelessness Facts[3]

The vast majority of homeless veterans (96%) are single males from poor, disadvantaged communities. Homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America.

· The number of homeless female veterans is on the rise: in 2006, there were 150 homeless female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; in 2011, there were 1,700. That same year, 18% of homeless veterans assisted by the VA were women. Comparison studies conducted by HUD show that female veterans are two to three times more likely to be homeless than any other group in the US adult population.

· Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor.

· Roughly 56% of all homeless veterans are African-American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8% and 15.4% of the U.S. population respectively.

· About 53% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities, compared with 41%of homeless non-veteran individuals.

· Half suffer from mental illness; two-thirds suffer from substance abuse problems; and many from dual diagnosis (defined as a person struggling with both mental illness and a substance abuse problem).

· Homeless veterans tend to experience homelessness longer than their non-veteran peers do: Veterans spend an average of nearly six years homeless, compared to four years reported among non-veterans.

How many veterans are homeless? While only 8% of Americans can claim veteran status, veterans make up 17% of our homeless population. In 2010, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimated that on any given night there were 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on American streets.”[4]

Different sources place this last number from 40K to 80K veterans. Even if the number is only half of the lower estimate, it is grossly unacceptable. Homelessness is a costly problem that can be fixed without greatly increasing the amount already being spent. ‘Adopt’ a homeless veteran. Sponsor and support him or her until they are self-sufficient. They supported you. It’s time to return the favor.

Yes, we need to reduce or eliminate homelessness, and the programs and services described in the preceding paragraphs have proven to be effective. On the other hand, if we fix or eliminate poverty, then homelessness will be greatly reduced for most of the population.

This is an excerpt from my book on Poverty — part 18

(Written but not published. If you want a MS Word free copy, let me know.)

[1] https://www.vox.com/2014/5/30/5764096/its-three-times-cheaper-to-give-housing-to-the-homeless-than-to-keep

[2] http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2014-05-21/news/os-cost-of-homelessness-orlando-20140521_1_homeless-individuals-central-florida-commission-tulsa

[3] http://nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/

[4] http://www.greendoors.org/facts/veteran-homelessness.php

Allan is a lifetime educator with two daily goals. 1) learn something. 2) Make the world a better place.