Evidence from Los Angeles that housing the homeless saves money

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) today released a study by the Economic Roundtable that provides even more evidence that providing permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless can ultimately provide public cost savings. These savings have been documented in research in cities across the nation, with the early work being done by Dennis Culhane and colleagues on New York.

Finally, we are beginning to have numbers that show similar savings in Los Angeles. Last month, United Way of Greater Los Angeles released a case study report of four individuals that showed a 40% decline in public costs.

Economic Roundtable’s Where We Sleep report
shows similar levels of savings, but with a much more comprehensive data set (including 10,000 recipients of General Relief in the County). This chart from the report shows how much public costs decline after someone is placed into supportive housing.

Average Monthly Public Costs for Persons in Supportive Housing and Comparable Homeless Persons

Average Monthly Public Costs for Persons in Supportive Housing and Comparable Homeless Persons
Source: Economic Roundtable, Where We Sleep, 2009

That’s a 79% reduction in average public costs. Even when accounting for the cost to provide permanent housing (average of $750 for capital and $352 for operational costs per month), there is a 41% decline in costs.

For years, studies around the country have shown similar cost savings; but a common response in Los Angeles has been, “well, we don’t know if that’s true for L.A.” (we are special here after all). With this evidence, what’s our excuse for not doing everything we can to provide permanent supportive housing for those who need it? Not only is it the right thing to do: it’s the smart thing to do.

Published by Bill

Social justice advocate and collaborative leader

One thought on “Evidence from Los Angeles that housing the homeless saves money

  1. Very interesting. Would it be possible to find supportive housing for as many as 10,000 people? That’s not a minor undertaking given the lack of affordable housing in L.A…

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