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.