A number of studies have already proved it. But another nonprofit has stepped in to further demonstrate that providing housing is the cheapest and most efficient way to keep at-risk individuals from becoming homeless.
Boston-based HomeStart, a nonprofit that works to prevent homelessness, offers a number of programs to keep its clients from landing on the streets. One of its most effective efforts, however, is simply fronting a month’s rent when a struggling person just needs a helpful boost.
Essentially, if a person suddenly loses a job, gets a costly medical bill or experiences any other kind of financial crisis and can’t pay rent, the group will coordinate with the landlord and pay the bill so the tenant won’t get evicted. Last year, the average rent assistance payment came out to $726. It costs the state about $30,000 to provide emergency shelter, according to the organization’s website.
Typically, HomeStart helps prevent up to 600 evictions a year, ThinkProgress reported. It’s all the more impressive considering that the 65-person organization gets no public funding. It relies completely on private donations.
This kind of success supports what a number of experts have said all along: Giving homeless people a place to stay first, and then dealing with their personal issues after, will keep them off the streets and save the government money.
After analyzing the progress of residents at Moore Place, an organization that houses 85 homeless people in Charlotte, North Carolina, the University of North Carolina found out just how cheap providing a roof really is.
The study found that in its first year, Moore Place tenants saved $1.8 million in health care costs, with 447 fewer emergency room visits and 372 fewer days in the hospital. The tenants also spent 84 percent fewer days in jail, with a 78 percent drop in arrests.
"This compassionate perspective is a better way to honor the humanity of a person, but it also works from a fiscally responsible perspective," UNCC assistant professor Lori Thomas, who directed the study, told HuffPost in March. "This really is a win-win."
A homelessness study in Central Florida yielded similar results.
Researchers from Creative Housing Solutions identified 107 long-term homeless people living in Orange, Osceola or Seminole Counties. By analyzing jail and hospital records, the group concluded that a homeless person costs the community an average of $31,065 a year. That figure doesn’t even include what nonprofits spend on food, shelter and clothing, the Orlando Sentinel reported in May.
Alternatively, providing a chronically homeless person with permanent housing and case managers to supervise them would cost about $10,000 per year, the newspaper reported.
"The numbers are stunning," Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, told the Sentinel. "Our community will spend nearly half a billion dollars [on the chronically homeless], and at the end of the decade, these people will still be homeless. It doesn't make moral sense, and now we know it doesn't make financial sense."
Find out more about HomeStart and how you can get involved here.