With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email thread and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
Homelessness is a heartbreaking problem that plagues every city and state in the country. For many of us, it can often seem too overwhelming to stop and give every homeless man or woman a dollar, let alone a home.
Although study after study has shown that it costs states and cities more money to leave homeless people on the street than it does to give them a place to stay, few localities have done anything with this data. But a select few are leading the charge and showing that it is indeed possible to end homelessness.
The state accomplished this feat by -- guess what? -- giving people homes. Rather than first getting homeless people "ready" for housing by putting them in shelters, rehabs or halfway houses, Utah was the first state to give the "Housing First" approach a fair chance. And it's even saving the state money: The average chronically homeless person used to cost Salt Lake City more than $20,000 a year, Lloyd Pendleton, the director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, told the New Yorker. Putting someone into permanent housing costs the state just $8,000.
"If you move people into permanent supportive housing first, and then give them help, it seems to work better,” Nan Roman, the president and C.E.O. of the National Alliance for Homelessness, told the New Yorker. “It’s intuitive, in a way. People do better when they have stability.”
Unity of Greater New Orleans and its coalition of homeless advocacy groups have already reduced the number of chronically homeless people in the city from 4,579 in 2009 to only 677 last year. Overall homelessness is also down in the city: The total number of homeless people sleeping at local shelters on a given night in January 2013 was 2,337 compared to 11,660 in 2007, representing an 80 percent decrease, NOLA.com reported.
Although this is certainly cause for celebration, Arizona would do well to apply the Housing First approach to its overall homeless population, which is still painfully high: One in every 230 Arizonans (over 28,000 individuals) experienced homelessness in Arizona during 2012, according to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
“This is a plan that could revolutionize the housing movement in the United States,” Alan Graham told NBC News. The Texas activist says his self-founded organization, Community First, has already lifted 100 homeless people off the streets.
“The city of Austin loves us,” he said. “They think we’re on the verge of breaking the code.”
In 2013 the city launched How’s Nashville, a concerted effort to end chronic homelessness by the end of the decade. Previously, the city placed an average of 19 homeless people in permanent housing each month. Today, it’s housing an average of 47 per month, Will Connelly, who directs the city’s Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, told the New York Times. Since last June, the city has placed more than 500 chronically homeless people in permanent supportive housing, Connelly said.
Image credit: Flickr/Byron
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.