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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Utah Might End Homelessness by 2015

Posted by on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Well this is a unique approach to homelessness—giving people homes:

In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

According to this article they've reduced homelessness by 78% in 8 years. That's MASSIVE. Seattle has a lot of growth in the housing sector AND a big homeless population; how could something like this work here?


Comments (44) RSS

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Cato the Younger Younger 1
The last two mayors just kept the homeless in tents: don't see that changing with the new one. And a roving tent city is just like a regular home right?

Kudos to Utah for doing something that's pretty caring and progressive
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 23, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Plymouth Housing Group has been using the Housing First model for some time now and it has shown quantifiable results.
Posted by stu ungar on January 23, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Report this
So reward the homeless slackers and punish the hard-working poor with sky-high rents.

Sounds fair.
Posted by Not On My Watch on January 23, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Seattle already is trying something like this:

1811 Eastlake opened in 2005 and provides supportive housing to 75 formally homeless men and women with chronic alcohol addiction. It is the first of its kind in Washington to address the needs of homeless chronic alcoholics who are the heaviest users of publicly-funded crisis services. 1811 Eastlake is the subject of multiple rigorous evaluations and has received recognition both nationally and internationally for its effectiveness.
Posted by John Galt on January 23, 2014 at 11:33 AM · Report this
I've got a Nickelsville and a vacant apartment building in my 1-block radius. Seems like we could make this work somehow.
Posted by rca on January 23, 2014 at 11:34 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 6
@3: Yet another faux-fiscal conservative.

If you read the article and learn about the project, it's actually cheaper yearly to provide these housing projects than it is to provide social services for them.

Your "watch" is with a not-just-blind-but-diseased eye.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 23, 2014 at 11:35 AM · Report this
BTW, @3: "homeless" and "working poor" are not mutually exclusive groups. And for people who are in only one of these groups, access (or not) to a warm bed and a shower can be the deciding factor that moves them to the other.

Fucking trolls.
Posted by rca on January 23, 2014 at 11:43 AM · Report this
@4: Exactly. The problem is that our local policy makers don't seem to draw the obvious conclusion from success stories like 1811 or, apparently, Utah. Housing First works. So why don't we actually implement it on more than a pilot basis. We should have two, three, many 1811s.
Posted by gnossos on January 23, 2014 at 11:45 AM · Report this
sperifera 9
Utah = Socialists. Joseph Smith must be turning in his grave.
Posted by sperifera on January 23, 2014 at 11:45 AM · Report this
This is a great idea. Frankly I'd like to see it expanded to the federal level.

It's crazy that we still view shelter as some special commodity and allow it to be subject to the capricious whims of the market. Even though shelter is a fundamental human need and therefor should be a basic human right.

Hell we subsidize, regulate and protect almost every other basic need - food, water, air - but housing? Nope.

Just mention rent control and watch so-called good liberals list the usual tired right wing canards about entitlement, "hampering development, " and on and on.

The lack of imagination our society has demonstrated in solving the problems of cost and supply of housing is astounding.
Posted by tkc on January 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 11
@ 9, actually, Mormons are excellent at walking the walk when it comes to charity - real charity, not just giving money and time for the tax write off, and not the mandatory tithe. I would be a lot more shocked if I read that this was happening in Kansas or Alabama.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 23, 2014 at 11:51 AM · Report this
@3 and 6,

The question is how much extra you want the hardworking to pay in order to punish the homeless.

If it's cheaper just to give them a home (I'm going to guess not the Ritz here), then stopping the program just means you want the hardworking to pay even more just to stick it to those lazy homeless.
Posted by Fr0zt on January 23, 2014 at 11:52 AM · Report this
@9 Joseph Smith was Communalistic Utopian. The 19th century equivalent of a Christian socialist.
Posted by tkc on January 23, 2014 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 14

That's not the conservative's point.

They don't want to pay less, they don't want cost efficiency.

They want poor people to feel shame, anger, and fear. They want themselves to be able to feel like feudal lords over the homeless serfs. And they'll pay a premium to get that.

I'd bet even if you could snap your fingers and create free houses that nobody had to pay anything for, conservatives would STILL rather pay higher taxes to keep them homeless or in expensive prisons for two reasons:
1) So they can feel their smug superiority over them, and
2) So they can complain that "gubbamint is stealing my hard earned money and giving it to moochers!"
Posted by Urgutha Forka on January 23, 2014 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 15
@ 12, it's about punishing the poor for the crime of being poor. God marked these people as surely as he marked Cain. So the expense there is worth it.

Seriously, that's the mentality. If you ever want to know why people hate the homeless and unfortunate so much, it's because they believe it's a moral failing.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 23, 2014 at 12:03 PM · Report this
Banna 16
So for this to be cost effective, everyone in an $11K/year apartment/social worker deal needs to use less than $5670 in ER and jail expenses. Is everyone in an apartment staying out of jail and the ER? $5670 is (guessing) a few nights in the ER/ICU or a couple months in jail including court costs, etc.
Posted by Banna on January 23, 2014 at 12:05 PM · Report this
@16- I live in Utah and I can tell you, this program MUST be demonstrating some rock solid numbers to get traction on the Hill. I work on some different issues with the state legislature and have found that making a cold, pragmatic, fiscal case for even a very liberal program can get you plenty of support. Also, culturally, they are very much concerned with "appearances" and nothing dims the sparkle of Zion quite like legions of homeless in the parks in downtown SLC. It is likely there is a lot of support for this program based solely on aesthetics.
Posted by longball on January 23, 2014 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Hmmm. When word of this gets around, I expect an exodus of people on the margin and people who are homeless. Might help solve or at least reduce the homelessness problem in other communities
Posted by Citizen R on January 23, 2014 at 12:38 PM · Report this
@17 I have been beating my brains in, reading the comments on some of the Utah online venues, against marriage equality of late. This isn't quite the antidote to that, but it is quite cheering by comparison.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 23, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Report this
I've seen this same result in different cities multiple times why are we all adopting this so slowly. Boggles the mind.
Posted by BusyB on January 23, 2014 at 12:49 PM · Report this
@20 is right. This isn't just a Utah program. Housing First is an actual thing, pioneered on the East Coast, and federally supported through a couple of programs.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 23, 2014 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 22
i don't know where UT is finding all these vacant apartments, but some enterprising young go-getter at the stranger might want to call up the SHA or another non-profit housing provider and inquire about their wait list.

the units needed to solve this don't exist. well, maybe it they filled up the new downtown high-rises, but those are renting at 2K/month.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 23, 2014 at 1:06 PM · Report this
@16: no "everyone in an $11K/year apartment/social worker deal" most certainly does not need "to use less than $5670 in ER and jail expenses".

This is all about averages and getting a relatively few frequent fliers out of the system can generate sufficient savings to cover the costs for others.

In addition to the cost savings and improved quality of life for those who get housing and support services, there is a huge quality of life improvement for the wider community. The 1811 Eastlake building in Seattle has made a noticeable and demonstrable improvement in the areas of downtown Seattle that used to be littered with street drunks.
Posted by gnossos on January 23, 2014 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Kinda following up on what @22 said, I could see housing for the poor not progressing all that much beyond 1811 Eastlake due to the high cost of real estate in the Seattle area and NIMBY opposition----you think the good people of Maple Leaf and Broadview would tolerate the so-called freeloading drug and alcohol using riff raff in their midst? Murray got that endorsement from NIMBY Steinbrueck, so I'm not so sure about progress on such a housing initiative.
Posted by neo-realist on January 23, 2014 at 1:14 PM · Report this
@22 and 24: can't find a link to the most recent numbers, but as of Nov. 2012:

"There are nearly 13 million vacant housing units throughout our cities and rural areas; a supply of available housing far exceeding the estimated 3 million people who will experience homelessness in the country."

And that had been true for several years. can't imagine it's changed much.…
Posted by gnossos on January 23, 2014 at 1:16 PM · Report this
It would absolutely work. 1811 Eastlake wasn't supposed to work, but it did. Amazing what having a dependable place to bathe, cook, sleep, keep possessions -- does for someone's life.
Posted by sarah70 on January 23, 2014 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Posted by leighzbohns on January 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 28
The City's budget for housing in 2014 is approximately $50 million.
Posted by kk in seattle on January 23, 2014 at 1:31 PM · Report this
merry 29
Wow! Go Utah!!

We need this in Washington state like, now...
Posted by merry on January 23, 2014 at 1:32 PM · Report this
AFinch 30
@1 - it's called "enlightened self-interest" and if only the greed-heads would focus more on their own bottom line than on @2's version of punishing the poor, indigent and mentally ill for being poor, indigent and mentally ill, they'd actually lower their costs. That discrepancy in costs reveals the real agenda and values.
Posted by AFinch on January 23, 2014 at 1:54 PM · Report this
AFinch 31
Oh, my bad @2 - I meant @3. Also: I should have read all the comments, I see this was well covered already.
Posted by AFinch on January 23, 2014 at 1:56 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 32
Seattle has many of these home buildings for the mentally ill, one just finished on Delridge. Part of the problem is neighborhood push back. NIMBY. Remember many of the homeless are that way because no one will rent to them as they have "sex offense" on their record. Ending homeless means ending witch hunts. Good luck with that.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 23, 2014 at 2:08 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 33

If the city is constructing its own buildings, it requires a huge capital investment. If the city is subsidizing the use of existing units, there are the problems of a mere 3 percent rental vacancy rate and the cost of renting privately owned studio apartments and one bedrooms.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 23, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
treacle 34
This is fucking great news! I hope the concept and practice spreads.
Posted by treacle on January 23, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 35

It's impressive, and maybe just a little bit creepy, how clean Salt Lake City is.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 36
@12: The "hardworking" would rather work more if it would mean that the poor suffered more in turn.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 23, 2014 at 2:43 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 37
Just as they'd rather not provide a fall-back set of social services but would pay much more in terms of crime and other externalities to their myopic worldview.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 23, 2014 at 2:53 PM · Report this
watchout5 38
Hang on here. To end homelessness they gave people shelter. Because economics? You mean, people want to save money and produce better results rather than encourage crime? This is really weird. Also you're probably going to start hurting the bottom line of all those fancy private prisons. I expect some massive pushback. I mean like, freedom and shit, people should have to earn their studio apartments and social workers, if people are just given apartments and social workers they might make their life better at the expense of profits for the few. Capitalism can't wait to shit on this idea simply because it works so well.
Posted by watchout5 on January 23, 2014 at 3:57 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 39
@25: you're providing the number for the whole country. 13 million vacant units in america as a whole is not reflective of the vacancies in seattle.

finding units to put homeless people in a is a major struggle for advocacy organizations here. i know of people who moved to port angeles, where there are no jobs, because they got a subsidized unit to move into. and the waiting list there is 8 years long.

maybe UT has a higher vacancy rate, maybe they're putting folks up in the hinterlands, i don't know. again, i'd like the stranger to answer the question: is this solution even possible in seattle/king/the region?
Posted by Max Solomon on January 23, 2014 at 3:57 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 40
@24: it's likely the "good people of maple leaf" already have subsidized housing in the form of Section 8 vouchers throughout their neighborhood. wedgwood has an SHA apartment complex right off 75th at 38th ave., magnusson park is throwing up non-profit transitional housing as fast as they it can be funded, and no one's having a conniption.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 23, 2014 at 4:04 PM · Report this
@39: you are correct about my using numbers for whole US. Just using it as an illustration that the supply of vacant housing stock far outstrips the number that need housing.

It appears that SLC actually has a lower apt vacancy rate than Seattle...the problem is that those are numbers of places that area available for rent...not vacant housing stock. Not sure what the vacant housing stock is for Seattle area, but I'll bet it's more than a few thousand.

And yes you are exactly right, that even with money it is extremely difficult to find housing for homeless folks. Even if you guarantee their rent (paid in full, ahead of time) it is incredibly hard to find housing for folks with convictions or previous evictions.

Utah has found a solution to this (still trying to figure out how they do it, but it seems they might be renting out buildings [or sections of them] and becoming the de facto landlord). Whatever they're doing is much better than we are.
Posted by gnossos on January 23, 2014 at 4:17 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 42
@10: speaking only for myself, I don't think there's any particular contradiction between being dubious about the value of rent control as a tool, being in favor of more housing development, and being in favor of projects like this.

Rent control addresses the problem of homelessness, displacement and housing shortages in ways that range from the only-marginally-effective to the highly self-defeating. Giving housing to people who need it and can't otherwise get it is actually fixing the problem we all say we want to fix. More of that, please.
Posted by Doctor Memory on January 23, 2014 at 5:31 PM · Report this
sirkowski 43
So Jack Chick was right, the Church of Latter Day Saints really IS a communist conspiracy.
Posted by sirkowski on January 23, 2014 at 7:34 PM · Report this
@42 Marginally effective and self defeating? Way to buy into the market mania and propaganda nonsense. Try it when every media outlet, legislator, developer and property owner isn't gunning to sabotage your program.

Besides. How many forms or versions of rent control concepts have been tried and how many chances for success were given? Is that extent of your collective imaginations? That's pretty sad, for a so called liberal.
Posted by tkc on January 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Report this

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