Friday, January 18, 2008

Business case for ending homelessness

Several months ago, Central Dallas Ministries and the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation engaged the J. McDonald Williams Institute to conduct a different sort of study on homelessness in Dallas. Our intent was to "prove up" the business case for ending homelessness in our city. In other words, what would be the positive economic impact on our community if we could eliminate homelessness?

The study is titled, "The Business Case for Ending Homelessness: Moving From a Scattered and Costly Scheme of Emergency and Revolving Door Care to a Coordinated, Managed, Permanent Solution to the Local Costs of Homelessness" (statisticians go for long titles!).

In 2000, the City of Dallas, Dallas County, other government agencies and charitable organizations spent a total of $20,341,000.00 serving the homeless population in our community. By 2006, that total had more than doubled to an estimated $43,785,577.00 annually. $10,773,649 $9,256,082

Recent "point in time" census counts of the homeless population indicates that there are somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 homeless individuals on the streets of Dallas at any one time. About 1,000 are chronically homeless.

The chronically homeless use 50% of the shelter capacity of our community.

Almost half (43%) of those surveyed in 2006 reported that they were homeless due to the lose of a job. In that same count, 12% reported that they had been homeless on four or more occasions in the past three years.

Here in Dallas more than 45 agencies offer housing, food, medical care and counseling/employment services to the homeless population.

The chronically homeless tax, not only the limited resources of emergency shelter providers, they also put a strain on hospital emergency rooms, police, ambulance and other public services. Excessive numbers of homeless persons in a given area--on the streets without permanent housing--can depress property valuations and tax revenues. A study conducted in 2000 estimated that the City of Dallas and other local jurisdictions were losing $4.1 million per year due to low property valuations in the southern section of Dallas' Downtown area.

What would be the actual costs associated with effectively ending homelessness in Dallas?

The development of 1,200 units of supportive housing would effectively end homelessness as we know it in Dallas.

The cost of providing 1,000 single resident occupancy (SRO) units would be approximately $25 million or $25,000 per unit. In addition, 200 family units could be developed for a cost of $7 million or $35,000 per unit. Additional operating funds for developing these properties would be about $3 million or $2,500 per unit. Total development costs for the needed endeavor would come in at around $35 million or $29,166 per unit. Spread over a 30-year period the annual costs would total $1.6 million or $972 per unit.

Operating costs to provide the supportive services for such a development strategy would total $4.2 million annually or $5,189 per unit.

In short, for less than the cost of one year's service expenditures for our current system of managing and serving the homeless population in Dallas, we could develop all of the housing needed to take every chronically homeless person off the streets and provide exactly the supportive services they would need to maintain themselves in the new housing! In addition, we would be able to sustain the plan for 1/10 the cost we are now spending each year. These savings could insure the development of more fit and affordable housing.



c hand said...

Why have so many gov housing projects been failures? Should alcohol or drug use in these homes be grounds for eviction?

perplexed said...

I was told that the Christmas stay at one of our local hotels for the homeless was a disaster. The homeless stole anything from the hotel they could. Coffee pots, towels or anything else that was not tied down in the rooms. Problem I see is that when you reach out trying to do something good for this population there is always going to be a few that spoil it for all. Some don't appreciate anything that is done for them and it IS probably due to alcohol and drugs. If that is used as grounds for eviction then we still end up with lots of chronic homeless people don't we? Unfortunately, some are beyond help.

Larry James said...

perplexed, I can see why such a short-term, "let's help the poor cold people out" approach was a disaster. Not smart. Put yourself in the shoes of a homeless person--flat broke, knowing it's back to the streets in 24 hours, cold, hungry, no options. Talk about setting poor folks up for failure!

We currently are placing folks in apartments that we lease with HUD funds. We provide caring supportive services and workers at the sites. We don't make people jump thru lots of hoops, we don't make them listen to sermons and we allow them to choose freely whatever services they want that we offer. To date we have had nothing but positive experiences with our residents. They are so grateful to be off the street and in places to which they have the key and over which they have control. The national research on the viability of "housing first" is being proven here in Dallas by our experiences.

chand, not all public housing has been a disaster. We have good examples here in Dallas, especially in communities that have been restored by HOPE VI funds. Drug abuse is grounds for eviction in public housing. But very few chronically homeless persons are served by public housing. Completely different product than what my analysis in this post is suggesting.

c hand said...

Why will this project succeed where so many others failed? What did the failed projects do that this one won't do...what will this one do that the others didn't? Or are you saying that there really wern't many poject disasters?

Karen Shafer said...


"I was told that the Christmas stay at one of our local hotels for the homeless was a disaster."

I was there, and this is most definitely not true and is disinformation! Where did it come from??? The people who ran this event run a very tight ship.

If the event was a disaster, why did the high-profile luxury hotel involved eagerly embrace it for the third year in a row???

And, Larry, I vehemently disagree with this: "I can see why such a short-term, "let's help the poor cold people out" approach was a disaster. Not smart." It is one approach AMONG MANY to alleviate suffering -- albeit temporarily -- to give street people something to remember and to reach for, and to raise the profile of homelessness in Dallas. One night off the street can have a lasting impact on people.

Kudos on the business study, however. Therein lies the long-term answer.

Larry James said...

Karen, thanks for the correction, a needed one. That's what I get for believing the boo birds who often post here or the people who themselves believe the negative propaganda vs a more just and humane society. Thanks again for setting me straight!

Larry James said...

BTW, Karen, your report on the "behavior" of the homeless involved in this special outreach project squares perfectly with our experience in placing formerly homeless neighbors into nice apartments. We have had no problems like "perplexed" claims.

The SoupMan said...

In regards to Perplexed saying "I WAS TOLD THAT THE CHRISTMAS STAY AT ONE OF OUR LOCAL HOTELS FOR THE HOMELESS WAS A DISASTER". Well I do have some comments on this you may find interesting. You see I am the guy that runs that Christmas event that Perplexed referred to as a disaster. My name is David Timothy, but on the streets of Dallas they call me the SoupMan. I run the SoupMobile, a mobile soup kitchen that serves over 100,000 meals per year to the homeless in the Dallas area. Larry, by the way, the SoupMobile also donates food to your charity (CDM)every week year around.
So was the Christmas event a disaster??? Perplexed (who did not leave his/her name) said "I was told". Well let me see if I can provide you a more up close and in person view of the event. After all I was there! For the third year in a row the SoupMobile took 300 homeless men and women off the streets of Dallas and put them up at the downtown Hyatt Regency for Christmas. They all received new clothes, gifts, great food, lots of love and of course a warm safe overnight stay at one of the finest hotels in Dallas. Major support was given to the project by local business' and local churches. Now Larry, I thought the event went rather well, but lets face it I'm prejudiced. So lets see if I can provide you some more objective views of the event. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert who actually attended the event said, "This is a wonderful event and provides hope and encouragement to our homeless and lets them know that someone truly does care about them". The Hyatt's Executive Manager,who was actually there, said "he was honored to have been part of the 2007 Christmas Angel Project". He also said "I am extremely happy to report that the event was flawless". We had over 300 volunteers who felt the event was important enough to give up part of their Christmas to come to the Hyatt and help. For the last three years local TV stations 4, 5, 11, 23, & 33 have all reported very favorably about the event. But of course Perlexed said, "I was told". Well Larry I leave it up to you and your readers to decide if the event was a success or a disaster. Is Perlexed right or is the Mayor of Dallas, the Executive Manager of the Hyatt, hundreds of volunteers, donors, supporters, business leaders, church members, and local tv reporters right? Finally let me reach out to Perplexed with love. Let me invite Perlexed to the 2008 4th Annual Christmas Angel Project as my special guest. Come and see yourself what the true spirit of Christmas is all about. Come and see that the spirit of giving is alive and well. Come and see a magical Christmas you will never forget. Signed, David Timothy, a.k.a. The SoupMan
p.s. Larry, kudos to you and CDM for doing a fabulous job in our community helping the less fortunate.
p.p.s. Larry, you are also invited to our 4th Annual Christmas Angel Project in December 2008.

Karen Shafer said...

Larry, thanks for your comments and for all you do in our city.

Larry James said...

Soup Man, thanks for setting the record straight! Thanks for your spirit and your work. I'd love to hear from Perplexed to see if this has helped him gain a new perspective on our friends who need homes.