IMPACT

Here's Proof That Helping Homeless Isn't About Donating.. It's About Investing In Your Community

04/15/2015 09:47 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015

This nonprofit doesn't want your donation -- it wants you to "be selfish," actually.

In an ad posted online last month, the Weingart Center points out that helping the homeless isn't simply a charitable handout -- it bolsters entire communities, helping everyone.

In the video produced by the Los Angeles-based organization -- which fights homelessness by connecting clients with a number of different services, including job placement -- small business owner Perry Zimmerman surprises potential investors by encouraging them to financially support local homeless individuals.

Letting homelessness persist, Zimmerman points out, is very expensive: About $35,000 is spent per homeless individual every year on costs like hospital visits and mental health services, according to the Weingart Center.

Those costs shrink substantially when those without permanent shelter gain employment.

"We reduce the cost of law enforcement, welfare, food stamps," he said. "[Formerly homeless people] spend money in their community, they support local business, they pay taxes."

The Weingart Center's method of benefiting communities financially by helping vulnerable residents has a proven track record of success.

After researchers studied chronically homeless people in Florida last year, they discovered taxpayers saved about $21,000 per homeless individual by providing stable housing and case management services to those who had been living without permanent shelter, the Orlando Sentinel reported. As it turned out, costs like jail stays for homeless-related crimes and emergency hospital visits were much higher than costs associated with simply giving basic services to those in need.

Similar findings came out of a study by the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where researchers documented drastic reductions in costs related to health care and incarceration after chronically homeless adults were given a permanent place to call home.

Zimmerman, however, didn't need hard facts to understand why the nonprofit's way works. In the video, he says that he used to be a homeless heroin addict before finding his way through the organization's job development program, according to the Weingart Center.

According to Zimmerman, the center helped connect nearly 1,000 clients to jobs last year.

"Imagine the ripple effect that that's having out in our community," he said.

To support the Weingart Center, click here. You can also support PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) by using the Crowdrise widget below.

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