One element of the proposed Green New Deal is ‘affordable, safe and adequate housing.’ Our first post on this subject will concern those who have no homes.
“According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night last year. A total of 193,000 of those people were “unsheltered,” meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens.”
There is no fair stereotype of homeless persons: they include the young and old, individuals and entire families, and all races and ethnicities.
One of the leading causes of homelessness is the high cost of rental housing. The average cost of rent was $1,405 last year. 193,000 unsheltered homeless multiplied by $1,405 monthly rent comes to $271,165,000 a month. 12 months a year makes that $3,253,980,000. So for three and a quarter billion a year we could give those unsheltered people an apartment. That’s not so much–we spend more on lots of things without much fuss.
Except there aren’t enough apartments. Except if we did this the price of apartments would rise. Except if we did this the other 350,000 people who experienced lesser degrees of housing difficulties would wonder what they were doing wrong.
If we tried to build this housing we wouldn’t be able to do it in the centers of cities where it would be most helpful to the homeless, it would be on the edges of towns and cities and immediately we would have to confront transportation issues–do we also give them a bus pass? Free Uber/Lyft rides? Some of the homeless are dealing with very real medical and psychological issues. Do we just give them a key to an apartment and walk away from them?
People who have spent their working lives trying to address the issue of homelessness understand how complex and interconnected it all is. And it isn’t just an American problem. In the last year in the UK, the number of people sleeping rough rose by 7%. In Germany, the last two years saw a 35% increase in the number of homeless while in France, there has been an increase of 50% in the last 11 years.
But just flat out giving the homeless a permanent address has worked. It flips the script.
“There can be a number of reasons as to why someone ends up homeless, including sudden job loss or family breakdown, severe substance abuse or mental health problems. But most homelessness policies work on the premise that the homeless person has to sort those problems out first before they can get permanent accommodation.
Finland does the opposite – it gives them a home first.
The scheme, introduced in 2007, is called Housing First. It is built on the principle that having a permanent home can make solving health and social problems much easier.
The homeless are given permanent housing on a normal lease. That can range from a self-contained apartment to a housing block with round-the-clock support. Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the support services they receive. The rest is covered by local government.
“All this costs money, But there is ample evidence from many countries that shows it is always more cost-effective to aim to end homelessness instead of simply trying to manage it. Investment in ending homelessness always pays back, to say nothing of the human and ethical reasons.”
The savings in terms of the services needed by one person can be up to 9,600 euros a year when compared to the costs that would result from that person being homeless.”
Oh, but that’s in Finland–small, European, far away and different.
“ In the past nine years, Utah has decreased the number of homeless by 72 percent—largely by finding and building apartments where they can live, permanently, with no strings attached. It’s a program, or more accurately a philosophy, called Housing First.”