Studies Find Providing Housing for Homeless would Save $20,000 a Year per Person

Thursday, May 29, 2014
(Photo: WFTV)

Getting the chronic homeless off the streets by putting them into government-supported housing would save communities at least $20,000 annually per person, according to a new study.


An analysis by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness found each person without a place to live wound up costing $31,000 a year in law enforcement and medical care expenses, such as emergency room services. But if local governments provide permanent housing for these individuals, the cost would amount to only about $10,000 a year per person—a savings of $20,000.


 “The numbers are stunning,” Andrae Bailey, the commission’s CEO, told the Orlando 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.”


A study in North Carolina would seem to support the commission’s argument. In Charlotte, an apartment complex set up for the homeless saved the city $1.8 million in its first year by cutting down on ER visits and hospital stays by homeless people, according to research by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The study also revealed a 78% decline in arrests and 84% fewer days spent in jail by those with a place to live.


The program is working well enough that the city is planning to expand the complex from 85 units to 120 and proposals for more such housing are on the drawing board.


 “You can’t argue with the statistics,” Caroline Chambre, director of HousingWorks for Urban Ministry, told the Charlotte Observer. “This approach was controversial at one time because of the stereotype of who the homeless are, and we had to change that stereotype.”


This approach has been successful in other areas. Utah had a similar program and found it saved about $5,000 a year in ER visits alone.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Cost of Homelessness in Central Florida? $31K Per Person (by Kate Santich, Orlando Sentinel)

Study: Charlotte’s Apartments for Homeless Save Money (by Mark Price, Charlotte Observer)

Utah and Detroit Experiment with Giving Free Housing to the Homeless (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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