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It shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many people it is. It turns out that instead of letting people suffer on the street or in shelters, we should be working to provide housing for them. Not only is it better for them personally, it’s better for all of us because it leads to much lower costs to society (i.e. the emergency room, criminal justice, drug and alcohol treatment, etc.).
Plenty of research around the country has shown that housing combined with services (aka permanent supportive housing) is the best solution to chronic homelessness. Finally, we are beginning to get some hard numbers of how this plays out in Los Angeles, the “homeless capital of the world.”
A report released today by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and conducted by USC researchers provides data on public costs before and after entering housing for four people. The analysis found that:
The total cost of public services for two years on the streets was $187,288 compared to $107,032 for two years in permanent housing with support services—a savings of $80,256 or almost 43%.
This level of decline in public costs is consistent with findings from another upcoming report on Los Angeles which I’ve had the opportunity to review. Hopefully, these reports will push policy makers and funders to direct increased resources and efforts to address chronic homelessness toward the long-term, cost effective solution of permanent supportive housing rather than short-term, costly attempts such as shelters.