Not Just About Homes But Lives, Financial Stability & Community
NOTE:As of June 2010 Homelessness in Louisiana was 102,889 people. What makes Southwest Louisiana so unique is Interstate 10 and 210. Studies show that the Homeless travel along major corridors such as I-10 and 210. One of the first things the Homeless see once arriving in Southwest Louisiana are the beaches along I-10 and I-210 which offers temporary refuge. Numbers as far as those families that are “At Risk of Being Homeless” are still being comprised. It is extremely difficult to get these statistics as the families that are “At Risk of Being Homeless” are too ashamed to admit to their situation.
For many city officials, community leaders, and even direct service providers, it often seems that placing homeless people in shelters is the most inexpensive way to meet the basic needs of people experiencing homelessness; some may even believe that shelters are an ideal solution.
Research, however, has shown something surprisingly different.
The cost of homelessness can be quite high. Hospitalization, medical treatment, incarceration, police intervention, and emergency shelter expenses can add up quickly, making homelessness surprisingly expensive for municipalities and TAXPAYERS, that's You, Your Family & Friend's!
There are 643,067 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.
Of that number, 238,110 are people in families, and404,957 are individuals.
12 percent of the homeless population - 67,000 - are veterans.
According to a federal study, approximately 1.7 million young people call the streets home every year. Children under 18 years of age accounted for 39% of the homeless population. Of that number, 42% were younger than age 5.
These numbers come from point-in-time counts, which are conducted, community by community, on a single night in January every other year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to submit this data every other year in order to qualify for federal homeless assistance funds. Many communities conduct counts more regularly.
Homeless families are similar to other poor families.
Typically, families become homeless as a result of some unforeseen financial crisis - a medical emergency, a car accident, a death in the family - that prevents them from being able to hold on to housing.
Most homeless families are able to bounce back from homelessness quickly, with relatively little public assistance. Usually, homeless families require rent assistance, housing placement services, job assistance, and other short-term, one-time services before being able to return to independence and stability.
Young people often become homeless due to family conflict, including divorce, neglect, or abuse. A large majority of young people experience short-term homelessness, returning back home or to family/friends. A small minority – an estimated 50,000 youth – experience long-term homelessness.Youth homelessness presents a particular challenge for several reasons, including the fact that there is very little definitive data on the population, as this group often doesn’t interact with standard homeless assistance programs or government agencies. Moreover, the solutions that have been identified for homelessness in general are often not applicable to minors (who are, for example, ineligible to rent an apartment). These special challenges mean that solutions to youth homelessness require targeted innovation.
Who are homeless youth?
According to a federal study, approximately 1.7 million young people call the streets home every year.Children under 18 years of age accounted for 39% of the homeless population. Of that number, 42% were younger than age 5.
Approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as L(esbian) G(ay) B(isexual) or T(ransgendered) – compared to 10% of the general youth population in the United States.
What can cause a young person to be homeless?
Young people are at far greater risk of becoming homeless if their parents engage in substance abuse or have mental health problems, if there is child abuse or neglect in the home, if the family has been homeless previously, or if they identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found that 46% of homeless youth escaped a home where they suffered physical abuse, while 17% left because of sexual abuse.
Children who have been in foster care have a greater risk of becoming homeless at an earlier age than other youth, and are more likely to remain homeless for a longer period of time. What happens to young people who try to survive on the streets? Young people who are too old for foster care and too young to apply for social services face devastating short- and long-term consequences from being forced to survive on the streets.Nearly 43% of homeless young men and 39% of homeless young women say they were assaulted with a weapon while living on the streets. Homeless youth suffer significant mental health problems that include depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.Young people living on the streets are highly likely to be engaged in substance abuse (approximately 75%), as a means to self-medicate to deal with traumatic experiences and abuse they face while trying to survive.Children living on the streets are more likely to engage in “survival sex” – trading sex to gain food, clothing, drugs, money, or just for a safe place to sleep at night.According to a San Francisco government study, 17% of homeless youth are HIV-positive.Homeless youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered are more likely commit suicide than other youth.Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while on the street.
Veterans often become homeless due to war-related disabilities. For a variety of reasons – physical disability, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, etc. – many veterans find readjusting to civilian life difficult. Difficulties readjusting can give rise to dangerous behaviors, including addiction, abuse, and violence, which, coupled with the difficulties, can lead to homelessness.Preventive measures, including job placement services, medical services, housing assistance, and the like, can mitigate the risk of veterans experiencing homelessness.
Chronic homelessness is often the public face of homelessness. "Chronic" has a specific definition, involving either long-term and/or repeated bouts of homelessness coupled with disability (physical or mental). People experiencing chronic homelessness often end up living in shelters and consume a plurality of the homeless assistance system’s resources.It’s a common misconception that this group represents the majority of the homelessness population; rather, they account for about 18 percent of the entire homeless population.
Fortunately, there has been significant progress to address chronic homelessness in the last decade; chronic homelessness declined significantly from 2005 to 2009. Unfortunately, that decline has stalled since the onset of the recession.
People experiencing homelessness are more likely to access the most costly health care services.
According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, homeless people spent an average of four days longer per hospital visit than comparable non-homeless people. This extra cost, approximately $2,414 per hospitalization, is attributable to homelessness.
A study of hospital admissions of homeless people in Hawaii revealed that 1,751 adults were responsible for 564 hospitalizations and $4 million in admission costs. Their rate of psychiatric hospitalization was over 100 times higher than their non-homeless cohort. The researchers conducting the study estimate that the excess cost for treating these homeless individuals was $3.5 million or about $2,000 per person.
Homelessness both causes and results from serious health care issues, including addiction, psychological disorders, HIV/AIDS, and a host of order ailments that require long-term, consistent care. Homelessness inhibits this care, as housing instability often detracts from regular medical attention, access to treatment, and recuperation. This inability to treat medical problems can aggravate these problems, making them both more dangerous and more costly.
As an example, physician and health care expert Michael Siegel found that the average cost to cure an alcohol-related illness is approximately $10,660. Another study found that the average cost to California hospitals of treating a substance abuser is about $8,360 for those in treatment, and $14,740 for those who are not.
People who are homeless spend more time in jail or prison, which is tremendously costly to the state and locality. Often, time served is a result of laws specifically targeting the homeless population, including regulations against loitering, sleeping in cars, and begging.
· According to a University of Texas two-year survey of homeless individuals, each person cost the taxpayers $14,480 per year, primarily for overnight jail.
· A typical cost of a prison bed in a state or federal prison is $20,000 per year.
Emergency shelter is a costly alternative to permanent housing. While it is sometimes necessary for short-term crises, too often it serves as long-term housing. The cost of an emergency shelter bed funded by HUD's Emergency Shelter Grants program is approximately $8,067 more than the average annual cost of a federal housing subsidy (Section 8 Housing Certificate). A recent HUD study found that the cost of providing emergency shelter to families is generally as much or more than the cost of placing them in transitional or permanent housing.
Studies have shown that – in practice, and not just in theory – providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing saves taxpayers money.
Permanent supportive housing refers to permanent housing coupled with supportive services.
· A study recent study followed the progress of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle, WA. All the residents at this Housing First-styled residence had severe alcohol problems and varying medical and mental health conditions. When taking into account all costs – including housing costs – the participants in the 1811 Eastlake program cost $2,449 less per person per month than those who were in conventional city shelters, as described in the article from the Journal of American Medical Association.
· A cost study of rural homelessness from Portland, ME found significant cost reductions when providing permanent supportive housing as opposed to serving the people while they remain homeless. The study specifically noted a 57 percent reduction in the cost of mental health services over a six-month period, partly due to a 79 percent drop in the cost of psychiatric hospitalization.
· A study from Los Angeles, CA – home to ten percent of the entire homeless population – found that placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing saved the city more than $80,000 per year.
For more information on the cost savings of permanent supportive housing, view policy brief on chronic homelessness or visit interactive tool on the subject.
While seemingly counterintuitive, these examples clearly demonstrate that a housing-based approach to homelessness is not only more cost-effective than a shelter-based approach, but more effective in the long term. By focusing our resources on ending homelessness, we can make real progress toward eradicating the social problem while helping the country's most vulnerable residents.
· Salit S.A., Kuhn E.M., Hartz A.J., Vu J.M., Mosso A.L. Hospitalization costs associated with homelessness in New York City. New England Journal of Medicine 1998; 338: 1734-1740.
· Martell J.V., Seitz R.S., Harada J.K., Kobayashi J., Sasaki V.K., Wong C. Hospitalization in an urban homeless population: the Honolulu Urban Homeless Project. Annals of Internal Medicine 1992; 116:299-303.
· Rosenheck, R., Bassuk, E., Salomon, A., Special Populations of Homeless Americans, Practical Lessons: The 1998 National Symposium on Homelessness Research, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, US Department of Health and Human Services, August, 1999.
· From the website of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, May 8, 2000.
· Diamond, Pamela and Steven B. Schneed, Lives in the Shadows: Some of the Costs and Consequences of a "Non-System" of Care. Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, University of Texas, Austin, TX, 1991. 6Slevin, Peter, Life After Prison: Lack of Services Has High Price. The Washington Post, April 24, 2000.
· Office of Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Evaluation of the Emergency Shelter Grants Program, Volume 1: Findings September 1994. p 91.
· Abt Assocaites, et al, Costs Associated With First-Time Homelessness For Families and Individuals, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, March 23, 2010.