Utah, the 10th least populated state in the nation, has used the No. 1 way of ending chronic homelessness to curb its rate by 78 percent over eight years. It's moved 2,000 people off the street not by imprisoning them or moving them to another state but by giving them apartments. Sound crazy? Consider the facts.
According to a blog from nationswell.com making its rounds on social media:
In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000.
A new concept? Not really. Years ago, Charlotte's homeless advocates visited several cities, including Seattle and Salt Lake City, to discuss their respective programs, which experts call "permanent supportive housing using the housing first model," said Urban Ministry Center head Dale Mullennix.
"We learned everything we could from those places that were basically ahead of us, and instituted the same strategy" in Charlotte, Mullennix said. From those meetings came McCreesh and Moore places, apartment complexes for chronically homeless individuals that include social workers and health-care personnel on site (for more on the apartments, read this story by Ryan Pitkin). The chronically homeless - those who haven't suddenly been made homeless by a situation, like losing a job - comprise about 15 percent of Charlotte's homeless population.
Since opening, the apartments have helped curb the chronically homeless rate by 17 percent. It's nowhere near Utah's, but, Mullennix said, just give the local program time.
"We're making progress," he said. "We just started later than they did." Plus, he adds, "maybe it's easier to get those big reaction because there aren't that many people [in Utah]."
The strategy is so effective, HUD now lists it as a top priority.
"When HUD announces it's time to apply for HUD funds for housing for homeless program, they spell out their priorities every year," Mullennix said. "This year, they're saying they don't only want to pay for social workers or transitional housing or shelters. They want to pay for permanent supportive housing using the housing first model."
"We expect to end chronic homelessness in Charlotte." Merry Christmas.