For a moment, forget the poorest of the poor.
Well, don't forget these folks, just shift your focus of concern for a moment from the human side of the challenge to the financial realities, to the costs of homelessness to any community.
As we continue working on providing additional housing units for the homeless, we realize just how essential it is to make the business case for eliminating homelessness from our community.
Homeless people cost us all a lot. And, many of these costs are unnecessary. The fact is, providing people decent, permanent housing is much more cost effective than allowing homeless folks to remain without housing.
Recently, we conducted a survey among residents who live in housing we provide. All who responded were homeless when they came to us. All are disabled.
Only 16% of those involved in our housing program took part in the survey. And while we will continue to gather data, what we collected in this initial survey provides a very clear "trend line" for our consideration.
We asked very simple questions:
1) In the year before you came into the Destination Home program how many times did you visit a hospital emergency room for any kind of treatment?
2) In the year before you came to the program, how many times were you admitted to the hospital?
3) How long had you lived in your Destination Home apartment?
4) Since you moved into the Destination Home program, how many times have you visited a hospital emergency room for any kind of treatment?
5) Since you moved into the Destination Home program, how many times have you been admitted to a hospital for any kind of treatment?
The results are extremely interesting.
Those who participated in the survey have been in the program for an average of 9 months. Their average age is 57.
In the year prior to coming our way, these folks report 17 ER visits at local hospitals. Since coming to our program, they report 1 such visit.
Likewise, in the year prior to coming to Destination Home, those surveyed reported 4 hospitalizations. Since coming to us, survey participants reported 1 hospitalization.
Clearly, permanent housing makes a big difference for the formerly homeless. But, it also makes a difference for the rest of us.
Ignoring the poor is not only heartless and immoral, it makes no sense whatsoever financially. Good public stewards will invest in wiping homelessness out.