The Surprising Solution to Homelessness   Leave a comment

This is one of the assignments I had to do for my recent return to college. I feel it was well made, and wanted to share it, in its original entirety below. The recorded version references the site I had to create for class. If or when I decide to re edit my recording, I will send it here.

How do we help the homeless? Simple, give them homes. In the below recording, I will explain why. (Transcript and further reading below.)

Homelessness is a major issue today, both in Downtown Salt Lake City, and in other major cities across the nation. Officials are scrambling for a way to tackle the issue that is both effective and low cost. But I believe Utah has found the most effective solution. It’s simple: if you want to solve homelessness, just give the homeless homes.

I know – it sounds both too simplistic and unrealistic. But from 2005 to 2015, Utah reduced its number of chronic homeless individuals by 90%. This was accomplished by giving the homeless homes first, before working on their other issues. It is almost impossible for someone to find a job, keep appointments, or improve their life if they don’t have a stable place to live. Our typical methods of providing job training, addiction therapy, and food, are well intentioned, but if you don’t get the homeless out of their bad environment, you can’t help them effectively.

Isn’t providing housing expensive? According to the Utah Homeless Task Force, in order to provide a home and social worker to a person in need, it would cost $7,800 a year. That sounds like quite a lot, but the average cost per year of a homeless person living on the street is over twice that amount at $19,000. That is the cost when you take into account emergency room visits, jail time, etc., in addition to the social workers and care programs we already use. Society is already paying the higher cost, so why not pay half of that in order to help twice as many people?

But are these figures true? Well, it is a little more complicated than that. Firstly, the numbers above are only for chronic homeless people. That means someone who has been on the street for over a year and has some sort of mental issue, like schizophrenia or drug addiction.They make up about 20% of homeless people. The remaining 80% of homeless people are temporary homeless. These are people who are in-between jobs and homes. Secondly, as Kevin Corinth from the Huffington Post has pointed out, Utah may have padded the numbers a little bit.

However, no matter how you interpret the numbers, there is a definite decrease in homeless. On top of that, whether we provide longer term housing to a chronic homeless person, or a temporary place to live while you get back on your feet, it still helps you recover. I understand it can seem too good to be true. But even a marginal effect is better than no effect, and that is exactly what we get right now.

For example, let’s talk about counselling programs. These are programs designed to help homeless people with addiction and mental illness tackle their problems, and integrate back in to society. At the moment, many of our housing programs are contingent on people staying clean or making all of their appointments in order to stay in their home. If someone messes up, they are back on the street until they prove they are willing to try again. But addiction and mental illnesses are diseases. We wouldn’t kick someone out for having an unexpected seizure or an allergic reaction, right?

Giving someone a home that is not contingent on them behaving “correctly” allows us to remove them from an environment that actively agitates their issue. If you are living in an apartment with other people who are trying to improve their life, it is going to be harder to do drugs than if you are sleeping on the street corner a block away from your dealer. I’m not saying we never have to push someone to clean up their life. But making someone’s chance to get clean their only chance denies human nature. We fail all the time, especially when we are learning something new, or gaining back skills we’ve lost.

I am not promising a panacea for the problem of homelessness. I also acknowledge in the long term we need to solve the issues that caused someone to become homeless in the first place. But if we focus on giving people houses first, it gives us a much better position to fix everything else. On top of that, it’s much cheaper that our current methods. So, if it is cheaper and more effective, what do we have to lose? Let’s give the homeless homes.

Thank you for reading,



Works Cited:

Posted 08/17/2017 by Shay in Writing

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