The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions

Posted by Henry | COUNTRIES,HOMELESS PEOPLE,RENTING | Saturday 18 April 2015 8:41 am

One American social researcher came up with a radical way to help street people.

Give homes to the homeless.

man in a wheelchair makes his way to the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City as a major storm blows into Utah image

A man in a wheelchair makes his way to the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City as a major storm blows into Utah. Photo: AP

The story of how Utah solved chronic homelessness begins in 2003, inside a cavernous Las Vegas banquet hall populated by droves of suits. The problem at hand was seemingly intractable.

The number of chronic homeless had surged since the early 1970s. And related costs were soaring. A University of Pennsylvania study had just showed New York City was dropping a staggering $US40,500 ($52,000) in annual costs on every homeless person with mental problems, who account for many of the chronically homeless. So that day, as officials spitballed ideas, a social researcher named Sam Tsemberis stood to deliver what he framed as a surprisingly simple, cost-effective method of ending chronic homelessness.

Give homes to the homeless.

Mr Tsemberis’ researchshowed this wouldn’t just dramatically cut the number of chronically homeless on the streets. It would also slash spending in the long run. In the audience sat a Utah businessman named Lloyd Pendleton. He had just taken over the Utah Housing Taskforce after a successful run in business. He was intrigued. “He came over to me and he said, ‘I finally just heard something that make sense to me’,” Mr Tsemberis recalled in an interview. “‘Would you be willing to come to Utah and work with us?'”

That conversation spawned what has been perhaps the United States’ most successful – and radical – program to end chronic homelessness.

Now, more than a decade later, chronic homelessness in one of the nation’s most conservative states may soon end. And all of it is thanks to a program that at first seems stripped from the left-wing socialist manual. In 2005, Utah had nearly 1932 chronically homeless. By 2014, that number had dropped 72 per cent to 539. Today, explained Gordon Walker, the director of the state Housing and Community Development Division, the state is “approaching a functional zero”.

For years, the thought of simply giving the homeless homes seemed absurd, constituting the height of government waste. Many chronically homeless, after all, are victims of severe trauma and significant mental health and addiction issues. Many more have spent thousands of nights on the streets and are no longer familiar with living in a home. Who, in their right mind, would willingly give such folk brand-new houses without any proof of marked improvement?

But that’s exactly what Utah did.

First the state identified the homeless that experts would consider chronically homeless. That designation means they have a disabling condition and have been homeless for longer than a year, or four different times in the last three years. Among the many subgroups of the homeless community – such as homeless families or homeless children – the chronically homeless are both the most difficult to reabsorb into society and use the most public resources.

So in 2004, as part of a trial, the state housed 17 people throughout Salt Lake City. Then they checked back a year later. Fourteen were still in their homes. Three were dead. The success rate had topped 80 per cent, which to Mr Walker “sounded pretty good”.

It’s now years later. And these days, Mr Walker says, the state saves $US8000 ($10,271) per homeless person in annual expenses.

And now, the chronic homeless are no longer tallied in numbers. They’re tallied by name. The last few are awaiting their houses.

The Washington Post


Henry Sapiecha

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Posted by Henry | COUNTRIES,HOME OWNERSHIP,MORTGAGES | Sunday 29 September 2013 8:53 am


switzerland--house pig

  • Although it’s a very wealthy nation, Switzerland is a country of renters. Home ownership in Switzerland is only about 30%. It’s not that Swiss people don’t want to own their own homes, but they aren’t as willing as people in other countries to overextend themselves financially to do so. Renting is the norm and people seem to be quite happy with that generally.


Henry Sapiecha


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