September 4, 2015

THE PAINFUL REALITY FOR THE RIGHT IS THAT...:

Solving homelessness is easy. So why don't we just do it? (Ryan Cooper, September 3, 2015, The Week)

The first thing to understand about homelessness is that it's mostly a transitory phenomenon. Of any particular population of homeless people, the vast majority of them will find some place to live in a few months.

The people you see out on the street, panhandling and sleeping in doorways, are almost always part of the small hard core of chronic homeless people, about 10 percent of the homeless total. These are the people the New York Police Department is complaining about, and they're typically older people with serious addictions or mental illnesses.

Such people are very expensive for the state. Homeless shelters cost a lot, and people on the street are constantly being picked up by the police and getting sick from being out in the elements. Shelter beds, jail cells, court time, and repeated emergency room visits (if not time in intensive care) add up to truly spectacular bills. Utah found that it was spending $20,000 per year per chronically homeless person -- fully 60 percent of the total spending on homeless overall, despite them being only a tenth of the total. In New York, the figure is more like $40,500.

Practically, this means that you could spend a lot of money on concentrated social services for the chronically homeless, and still come out ahead financially if it keeps them off the street. So when Utah tried just handing such people their own apartment in a program called Housing First (though participants do have to pay $50 or 30 percent of their income, whichever is more), and combined that with regular attention from social workers, hey presto -- the state decreased chronic homelessness by 91 percent.


...being tough on the poor always costs us more in the long run.  Likewise, the cheapest health care reform would be the most "expensive" one, universal HSAs from birth.

Posted by at September 4, 2015 7:44 AM
  

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