In 2015, Santa Clara County published the largest and most comprehensive body of information that was assembled in the United States to date analyzing the public costs of homelessness. Authored by the Economic Roundtable, the report can be found at www.destinationhomesv.org. Among other results, this study concluded that the Santa Clara community had a significant opportunity to use public funds more efficiently.
The results indicate that the top 5% of the homeless population accounts for 47% of all public costs. By prioritizing those who are chronically homeless for housing, it is possible to obtain savings that greatly exceed the cost of housing.
In addition, the study found that the top 10% of high cost utilizers had an average public cost of $62,473; the average cost after being housed was $19,767, an annual cost reduction of $42,706 for those who remained housed.
Data from the study suggests that communities adopt the following three strategies in their efforts to reduce homelessness:
- Invest in homeless prevention. Once individuals and families lose their housing, it is costly and hard to get them back into housing.
- Expand local rapid re-housing programs. Participate in federal grant programs and invest in local programs that provide funding to return those who are recently unhoused to housing. This interrupts the slippery slope to chronic homelessness.
- Build permanent supportive housing and create new housing. Coupling housing and supportive services is the most effective strategy for those with a history of chronic homelessness. Redirecting public funds such as those used to police and clean-up encampments and the inappropriate use of hospitals and emergency rooms, results in less public spending and greater stability and well-being for those who are chronically homeless.