It is clear by the numerous studies and reports I have mentioned in blogs posted in previous weeks that housing first is beneficial to both those being supported by the permanent housing and the taxpayers funding it. The primary factor those opposing housing first draw from is the cost, which is funded by the American taxpayers. Bringing an end to homelessness sounds as if it is a costly task, but every study I have crossed during my research of this topic shoots this argument down. According to Adam Gibbs of Community Solutions, housing first considerably reduces the cost of the homeless to taxpayers, making room for tax money to fund more desirable things like public education and roads.
One 2014 study performed in Central Florida concluded that the cost of each homeless individual to taxpayers was $31,065 per year, primarily due to frequent inpatient hospitalizations, emergency room fees, criminal justice costs, and funding towards shelters. The study also found that providing permanent housing using the housing first approach cut costs to just $10,051 annually, per person. The cost to each homeless individual was cut by nearly two-thirds, ultimately saving tax dollars to go towards other needs that benefit the community. If the housing first approach towards ending homelessness is not implemented in more communities, and not spread thoroughly throughout the United States, Americans are unnecessarily losing tax dollars.
Not only is the housing first approach cost efficient, but it is more effective in moving the homeless off of the streets and into permanent homes where they are offered services that may assist them with whatever they might need. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), between 2005 and 2007, the United States saw a 30% drop in national homelessness, which can likely be attributed to the housing first model. The NAEH also references an article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer that after maintaining permanent housing for five years through Beyond Shelter’s housing first program, 85% of formerly homeless adults remained permanently housed. Similarly, the Pathways to Housing program, a program designed specifically for homeless persons suffering from psychiatric disabilities in New York City, found that 88% had successfully maintained permanent housing, compared to the 47% of residents participating in the city’s traditional program.
If housing first facilities are not placed throughout the nation in the areas they are needed most, the homeless population will only increase, which will in itself increase the tax dollars needed to fund a larger homeless population. There will be more homeless people roaming the streets and searching for handouts, not to mention the need to fund the construction of additional homeless shelters and services for the homeless. With a larger homeless community, there will be a rise in homeless crime and crime in general, threatening the safety and reputation of whole communities. As I previously stated, the primary result of continuing on the path of traditional housing methods is the unnecessary spending of tax dollars, especially when the housing-first approach has proven to be more successful at reducing the overall homeless population, assisting these individuals in moving forward in their lives, while reducing the cost to taxpayers.