The Golden Ticket to Solving Homelessness

As I’m sure you’re all well aware, the U.S is currently facing a human welfare crisis as the number of houseless people continues to climb. The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fentanyl epidemic, and a shortage of housing has proved to be a lethal combination that has very effectively displaced over half a million people according to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. This has led to widespread open air drug use, unsanitary public spaces, and mounting pressure on public services to cater to an already needy population. As a result, the financial resources required by municipalities to clean up their streets and find housing for those in need has skyrocketed. The state of California, which is estimated to house 162,000 homeless people alone, has calculated that the cost to provide housing and healthcare support for the homeless on skid row would amount to $8.1 billion dollars in 2023. This includes camp cleanups, first responders, and emergency room visits, all of which add significant social costs. And despite the fact that cities across the country are spending more than ever before to reduce homelessness, the problem continues to worsen. The primary reason for this is the costs associated with actually housing the homeless are much higher than you would expect due their locations. Studies have proven that the vast majority of homelessness is concentrated on the west coast in milder and often wealthier environments. As a result, housing locations are more expensive and the prices are continually climbing everyday. However, there may be an easier solution to chronic homelessness.  An argument has been made for providing stipends rather than fully housing people to save the tax payers thousands of dollars. In fact, according to non profit Housing Matters, chronic homelessness is costing taxpaying citizens approximately $31,000 per year in homeless sweeps and jails. Cities such as Denver have reported that not criminalizing the homeless and providing stipends has saved the city $15,000 per person a year in costs. Of course this contradicts the commonly held sentiment that throwing money at a problem won’t make it go away. But in this instance, it seems an exception might be warranted.

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