Set aside the moral and humanitarian aspects of developing permanent housing for the homeless.
Go to the bottom line. That is an approach everyone in Dallas will understand!
Denver can teach us. As a matter of fact, we could go to school on a number of cities in the United States in this regard.
But, let's just stick with Denver for now.
A recent study of Denver's "housing first" program reveals some very interesting results.
The program is now two years old.
The strategy is clear and determined. The most hard-core homeless persons have been placed in permanent housing and steered toward treatment for mental illness and addictive behaviors.
During the two years prior to entering the program, these men and women cost the city $43,239 each in city services provided, including trips to hospital emergency rooms, inpatient treatment in a city hospital, trips to detox centers and nights in jail. In addition to this, prior to obtaining housing of their own, participants spent an average of 274 nights in the city's homeless shelters at a cost of $25 per night, per person.
During the two year period after they received housing of their own, the tab billed to the city per person fell to $11,694.
The per person cost of the Housing First program to the city came in at $13,800 and included both housing and treatment/social services expenses.
City officials project a net cost savings of $3.4 million over a two year period if all of the hard-core, chronically homeless in Denver were enrolled in Housing First.
Study after study from across the nation report similar findings.
Philip Mangano, Executive Director of the U. S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, reports that, ". . .we're learning the cost of housing the chronically homeless and providing services are less expensive than letting these folks remain homeless and ricochet through services." Mr. Mangano said basically the same thing yesterday here in Dallas when he spoke during groundbreaking ceremonies for our city's new Homeless Assistance Center.
Mangano noted that a study out of San Diego reported that 18 chronically homeless persons cost the city $3 million over a 18 month period.
"They could have rented ocean-side condos with sweeping views and provided them with concierge services for that amount of money," he concluded.
Cities like Dallas need to work smarter.
Permanent housing doesn't cost as much as on-going, intensive social and community services.
Housing is a sound community investment.
Housing is what we need. And we need it now.