This is turning out to be far more effective than anyone imagined. Note here that this a necessary solution for those who are clearly unemployable and just as obviously unable to navigate any of the services available. If you have a basket of mental issues, there is no magic. So stop acting as it is these folks fault that they are part of the lower third of human functionality.
13th April 2016
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
During a balmy 60ºF December morning, Rene Zepeda is driving a Volunteers of America minivan through Salt Lake City, Utah, looking for the homeless who may be camping by the railroad tracks or over by the river, sometimes in the foothills. Cold weather is on its way, so the van is packed with sleeping bags, thermal clothing, coats, sock, boots, hats, protein bars, nutrition drinks and canned goods. According to Rene, once the day is finished, everything will be gone. “I want to get them into homes,” he says. “I tell them, ‘I’m working for you. I want to get you out of the homeless situation.’”
The brutal reality of homelessness
Housing First provides stability for homeless people in a way that is far different from shelters and halfway houses. It gives access to permanent housing — unconditionally.
It began in Utah as a 10-year project to eliminate homelessness. State legislators were hesitant, but eventually embraced the idea. When the cost of emergency room visits, police intervention, shelters and halfway houses were taken into consideration, it was found that providing permanent housing was much more cost effective. Before Housing First, Utah was spending around $20,000 a year for each chronically homeless person. But with the program in full-swing, the state saves an impressive $8,000 per person. “We’ve saved millions with this,” said Gordon Walker, director of the state Housing and Community Development Division. Today, the project is close to eradicating homelessness in the state.
Tsemberis and his team, through their group Pathways to Housing, ran a test where they provided apartments for 242 chronically homeless people, no strings attached. They could do whatever they wanted — drink, take drugs, have mental breakdowns — as long as they didn’t hurt anyone. Services were provided if they wanted rehab, detox or medical care. But it was completely their choice.