The national figures demonstrate that the number of homeless people experiencing chronic homelessness — our most vulnerable and disabled neighbors — dropped from nearly 176,000 in 2005 to fewer than 124,000 in 2007, a decrease of nearly 30 percent.
People who are chronically homeless are unaccompanied disabled individuals who have been continuously homeless for over one year or who have had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. They make up perhaps 10-15% of the entire homeless population, yet they consume about half of all resources directed towards all people who struggle with homelessness. (Our FAQ will help you learn much more.)
“Why have these numbers fallen?” Mangano asks. He locates the answer in a paradigm shift from managing homelessness to ending it.
Cost studies that have tabulated the expenses to keep someone in homelessness indicate that those costs are actually more expensive than providing the solution: housing with the needed support services.
In fact, studies done in many communities tell us that the costs range from $35,000 to $150,000 per year for each person. People experiencing chronic homelessness are “high fliers” in many community systems.
The cost of supportive housing in those communities ranges from $13,000 to $25,000 per year for each person. You don’t need to be Warren Buffett or a hedge-fund manager to figure out which is the better investment. Housing is the central antidote, both morally and economically.
It costs us approximately $40,000 per year to maintain a chronically homeless person on the street here. Most of that cost is related to law enforcement activities and other emergency services. All of them are expenses paid for by taxpayers.
As the Ten-Year Plan gains traction, and as our community changes its approach from paying to maintain street homelessness to investing to end it, we should see our community’s experience line up with what’s going on nationwide.
Ending homelessness is the right thing to do, economically and morally. It’s encouraging to see these numbers come down with regard to people who are chronically homeless.