A program in Salt Lake City decided that it would be smarter -- and more humane -- to spend $11K/year each to house 17 chronically homeless people and provide them with social workers than it would be to waste the average of $16,670/year per person to imprison them and treat them at emergency rooms. As Nation of Change points out, this commonsense, humane and economically sound way of dealing with homelessness works, unlike the savage approaches taken by other cities (like the Waikiki rep Tom Bowker who smashed homeless peoples' carts with a sledgehammer, or cities like Tampa, which banned feeding homeless people).
Here's more on Utah's Housing First program.
Utah started a pilot program that took 17 people in Salt Lake City who had spent an average of 25 years on the street and put them in apartments. Caseworkers were assigned to help them become self-sufficient, but there were no strings attached – if they failed, the participants still had a place to live.
The “Housing First” program’s goal was to end chronic homelessness in Utah within 10 years. Through 2012, it had helped reduce the 2,000 people in that category when it began by 74 percent. Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, said the state is on track to meet its goal by 2015, and become the first state in the nation to do so.
...There’s no question that providing housing for the homeless is the right thing to do, for humanitarian reasons. But it also makes economic sense, so cities can spend less money and still help more people. In 2005, Utah did a study that found the average annual cost for emergency services and jail time for each chronically homeless person was $16,670. The cost to house them and provide case management services was only $11,000 per person.
Wyoming can give homeless a place to live, and save money [Kerry Drake/Wyofile]