What if solving the homeless problem was as simple as giving them a home. What if solving hunger was just as easy? Maybe it is.
If you have a Facebook account or are just a person who scours the Internet looking for information and fun facts you may have seen an article written by Terrance Heath. The quick overview is this: In the state of Utah they figured out that the annual cost of emergency room visits and jailing homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. Hmmm ... I’m no genius but that’s a $5,670 savings per person. Here’s the best part -- no strings attached. You don’t lose your apartment if you don’t hit your benchmarks or fail your tests. Interesting concept, if you can wrap your mind around just handing out housing! Honestly, I have a little bit of a problem with it, so I had to examine my feelings.
See, I’m a guy who works hard for a living and earns my place on Earth. But I also understand that I wasn’t always like that. Nope, I had parents that bailed me out of many a tough jam when I was young. But over time I got it dialed in and figured it out. I would have never been able to do that if I was living on the streets, which was something that I was close to, financially speaking. I was lucky. I had people who were my safety net, who loved me and gave me a leg up and a hand out (so thanks, mom and dad). As I thought about the concept of housing people I thought to myself, the only difference between what my parents did for me and what Utah is doing for their homeless is simple: My parents knew me, and they knew I would get it together and land on my feet. But truth be told, at that point they also knew I could have gone in a million different directions.
So after I wrapped my head around that, I figured out these numbers can’t be ignored. I starting looking into what our very own state spends not fixing the problem. Not surprising, the numbers aren’t that far off from Utah, which begs the question, what are we waiting for? We have to stop worrying about how they got homeless, and get them homes.
Here are some simple numbers -- there are approximately 4,000 homeless people in Vermont and the Vermont Hotel Voucher program alone spent $3.5 million last year (that’s $875 per person for one month’s rent in their very own place, maybe even two months). Keep in mind, I haven’t even factored in our overworked shelters, first responders, emergency rooms, and what it cost us to jail someone. You can see how it adds up quickly.
So why don’t we just adopt the "Homes not Handcuffs" report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless? It basically gives them the help they need to get back on their feet; let’s start getting people back into the system. People want to work, they want to earn their own way and we should never judge how someone got to where they are, we should help them get back to where they were.
I know the state has put forth a plan to help eradicate homelessness and I think it’s a great start. But it’s overthought and far too complex to ever work. In fact I would make the argument that it’s repackaged insanity, but this time the box it comes is wrapped in brighter paper. For once I would love it if we could just stop spending millions of dollars exhausting people and just make it simple. If you’re homeless, you get a place to live -- period! If we could just wrap our heads around that for a second and examine it, we would see it really is the only way to go. What the Hell is up with that?