To combat homelessness, why not just give people homes?

Utah homeless task force reduces homelessness by 74 percent
[image credit: Nation Swell]

Cumulative cost of services for homeless is staggering

It’s surprisingly expensive to be homeless: the State of Utah estimated the cumulative cost on emergency rooms, police departments and emergency shelters required just to maintain the status quo, totaled over $20,000 per year, per homeless person. By comparison, if you were to just give a homeless person the same amount in cash, their gross income would be almost double the federal poverty line.

Solution: Try giving them housing

It’s an idea so simple that only Comedy Central could do it justice. After weighing the numbers, Utah decided to start pulling people off the streets and into apartments. The annual cost to provide free housing to a homeless person in the state of Utah is roughly $12,000.

A common criticism of this approach (which was also lampooned in the Comedy Central clip) is that free housing creates a disincentive for people to work for themselves, and may actually increase homelessness. So far, many residents of the program have been able to find jobs and climb out of poverty. The program has saved the State of Utah millions of dollars, and Wyoming is looking to follow suit with a “housing first” approach of its own.

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Article by: Dave

Dave Cannon is a Seattle-based entrepreneur and consultant to nonprofits and small businesses. He loves Thai food and takes terrible photographs. You can follow him on Linkedin.
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