Housing the Homeless and Saving Money

15 Jun

In 2007, Community Solutions, working closely with County officials, launched a pilot program called Project 50. The goal of the project was to identify and house the most vulnerable homeless individuals in the county and provide them with housing and services. The goal was twofold: (1) get chronically homeless folks off the streets and into supportive housing, and (2) save taxpayer dollars. Thus far, the program has proved to be just as successful as its creators had hoped.

Between 2008 and 2010, the project cost Los Angeles County just over $3.0 million but generated nearly $3.3 million in savings. As a result, Project 50 paid for itself — and then some. Early opposition took issue with Project 50’s policy that looked past sobriety as a requirement to participate in the program, though advocates of the program claimed that the “housing first” approach would provide participants with the first step to maintaining a stable lifestyle. Project 50 created an increase in medical costs for treating mental illness, primarily because most of the patients had never been treated before enlisting in this program. However, medical costs for drug and alcohol abuse decreased as a result of participants using out-patient services that are generally less expensive than their residential counterparts. The increase in medical costs was offset by the savings created by a decrease in people coming in and out of incarceration and hospital emergency rooms.

Since Project 50’s success, eighteen communities in Los Angeles County have joined the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort led by Community Solutions to house 100,000 people by July 2013.

The Downtown San Diego Partnership has also joined this campaign, and LeSar Development Consultants was responsible for coordinating initial contact with the most vulnerable population in Downtown San Diego. As of May 2012, 132 people in San Diego are no longer on the streets and are receiving services, exceeding the initial goal number of 125. Additionally, local partners have agreed on an action plan to place 75 more veterans in permanent housing by August 17.

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