It’s cheaper to house the homeless than to ignore them

The great Malcolm Gladwell said that back in 2006 with his pivotal New Yorker piece, “Million Dollar Murray.”

Candy sends this along, a piece from ThinkProgess, from back in May:

Leaving Homeless Person On the Streets: $31,065. Giving Them Housing: $10,051.

We made that video at Partnership for Strong Communities, where I’m a consultant. We can end homelessness, and in Connecticut? We will. So says America’s oldest continuously published newspaper. So it must be true.


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  1. Wait a minute. Let me get this straight…
    You’re saying there is no actual moral hazard to just giving people housing? In fact…if I understand this correctly…you’re saying the financial consequence to taxpayers…the people footing the bill for “permanent supportive housing”…would actually be less than just letting homeless roam the streets?
    But…if you’re just giving housing away for free, doesn’t that encourage people to just stop working? I mean…you get your housing…you get your food stamps…you get your Obamacare®…why work?

    Sounds like Socialism to me. And we all know what that means.

    1. That we are looking out for our own, and by “our own,” I mean all of us? Yes. That is what it means. You can also find an example of this in the Christian scriptures, the Hebrew scriptures, the Quran, and just about any holy book you want to crack. Yes.

      1. One would think that, in a Christian Nation, a Capitalist Nation, something that made such good economic sense…being backed up by scripture and all…would have been put into practice by now.

        How much is another 1,000 units going to cost? Is this new construction or is the plan to utilize existing structures? The Courant didn’t say. (Actually…I was surprised they let me read it.) What about clients? Can anybody qualify? Or do you limit participation to the drug and alcohol free, like they do where I live?

        1. I don’t know how much it’s going to cost, precisely, but here in CT, we have a housing first model, where we want to get people housed first, and then we work on the other stuff. One shouldn’t have to “earn” a home.

          1. I agree…fundamentally…with that position, but see that kind of general altruism as inconsistent with the free-market concept of liberty that permeates public policy and practice.

            1. But it’s not altruism. It makes good economic sense? From a free-market standpoint, from any standpoint, it’s still cheaper to house people than to ignore them. The public health costs alone are ridiculously high.

              1. Confederate Teapublicans say it’s all about the dollars, but when it comes down to ideology versus dollars, ideology always wins with them. It’s been shown that education is cheaper, in the long run, than incarceration, but which one gets the dollars and which gets cut? Contraception is cheaper than teen pregnancy, but which one wins the ideology battle? Sanctions against Iraq were orders of magnitude cheaper than the invasion and occupation has been. Treating or preventing chronic illnesses in the doctor’s office is cheaper than treating them in the Emergency Room. Nope, it’s all about ideology and short term gains for corporations. Because Jesus Is Coming Back Real Soon Now.

                1. Interestingly enough, if a Confederate Teapublican was true to his/her ideology, housing the homeless, providing for contraception, and education would be their battle cry. I shall pray for them. And if Jesus is coming back real soon, he’s really going to be pretty pissed, don’t you think?

              2. I agree that if it makes good economic sense, on the surface, the altruistic notion disregarding risk and consequence could be abated…somewhat… by seeming to include the taxpayer in theoretical benefit.

                The notion of general altruism comes from your statement that participation in the housing program would be unlimited by participants’ chemical dependency/substance abuse, like it is where I live. Consider Hayek on The Constitution of Liberty

                To choose our associates and generally those whose needs we make our concern is an essential part of freedom and of the moral conceptions of a free society. General altruism, however, is a meaningless conception. Nobody can effectively care for other people as such; the responsibilities we can assume must always be particular, can concern only those about whom we know concrete facts and to whom either choice or special conditions have attached us. It is one of the fundamental rights and duties of a free man to decide what and whose needs appear to him most important.

                If the program is funded with taxpayer dollars, could this impose upon Hayek’s individual an unwanted association he would consider detrimental to society as a whole, violating a “fundamental right” of liberty? Hayek’s individual might consider giving any aid to drunks and addicts a disincentive to change their behavior. And…we’re back to moral hazard. Healthcare. Food stamps.

                Historically, we’re not known for good economic sense…are we? Our priorities lie elsewhere.
                I think Connecticut can pull this off. I think you will. You guys have the money to pull it off. I hope you do. It might help inspire a shift in public policy on the poor and disadvantaged.

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