Study Finds Surprising Solution To Homelessness

Image by Byron via flickr, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.
Image by Byron via flickr, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

Quick, answer this: How does a city eliminate chronic homelessness? If you answered, “Provide homes for the homeless people,” you’re right!

Crazy, isn’t it, that the most obvious solution to the problem of chronic homelessness is actually the best and the cheapest. A recent $110 million Canadian study focusing on five major cities found that the best and most permanent solution to homelessness is to give homeless people a home, even before they treat mental health or addiction issues.

Obviously, chronic homelessness is a multifaceted social issue, requiring a multi-pronged solution. But it seems that this is one instance in which society and policy-makers can’t see the forest for the trees. The solution is literally in the name: “home-less.” If a homeless person doesn’t have a home, give them a home, and they will no longer be homeless.

Having a place to call home allows folks to rest without worrying about the elements or other threats. It seems that this physical rest will allow them to be able to address the underlying mental health or addiction issues with greater success. Also, having an address to put on a resume helps with finding a job, not to mention that having a shower and a mirror and a closet to hang work clothes makes a huge difference in a person’s aesthetics.

The “Housing First” campaign in Utah has seen a 90+ percent decrease in chronic homelessness, with a homeless population state-wide of less than 200 people.

It’s just about time for the Reaganomics, right-wing, GOPers to chime in:

“But it’s expensive to provide homes for people! Let’s just make it illegal for them to be homeless, and tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and that’ll end homelessness for cheaper!”

First of all, no it won’t. That has never even come close to ending┬áhomelessness.

Secondly, try this on for size: providing housing for a person for a year is around $11, 000. Costs to throw a person in and out of jail and hospital for a year is around $17, 000, with a way higher recidivism rate. Now which policy is creating “big government?”

And possibly the most important element of this discussion is the dignity factor, which clearly favors providing homes for folks without homes. The solution is in making sure that homeless people have homes, not that we make more laws against homelessness.