Source: CVDaily Feed

In recent years, Utah has adopted a radical solution to solving the problem of chronic homelessness. Now it seems that other states are following suit.

By the end of 2015, experts predict that Utah’s rate of homeless individuals may be down to zero. Since 2005, the number has dwindled from nearly 2000 to just 178 as of last month — a 91% decrease.

Lloyd Pendleton, the director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, said that they call the strategy “housing first, employment second.”

The shift is “philosophical,” Pendleton said. “You put them in housing first … and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless.”

The condition of “chronic homelessness” is defined as anyone living on the streets for more than one year, or at least four times in the past three years, and those living with a debilitating condition. Those individuals make up 10% of the state’s total homeless population, but use about 50% of the state’s resources for the homeless.

According to Pendleton’s organization, Utah could spend about $19,208, on average, to care for one chronically homeless person; that includes costs for healthcare and sometimes even jail time. Yet housing and assigning a case worker to that person costs just $7,800.

These individuals receive apartments and pay 30% of their income or $50 per month in rent, whichever amount is greater.

Some of those who have been homeless for years have had their lives turned around once they were offered an apartment. One man, an army veteran named Don Williams, had been sleeping under a bush for 10 years before receiving what he calls a “blessing” from the program.

Individuals like Williams often have to rely on veterans’ clothing donations and related charities, which use a portion of the 14.3 million tons of clothing that Americans donate annually.

Now other cities and states are beginning to follow suit.

Greenville, SC, has begun a Housing First program, and one shelter holds 23 beds for those who chronically homeless and mentally ill.

The state crunched numbers and determined that emergency room visits and jail time cost far more than offering the homeless a home. For example, South Carolina’s average ER visit costs $2,122; while outpatient treatments are around $7,800 per day, though, an inpatient visit costs a staggering $32,086 daily.

Incarceration isn’t much cheaper. The Greenville County Detention Center costs the state $56.19 per day to lock someone up; at the Department of Corrections, the cost is $52.43. That’s about $20,000 per year for one person, which the state sees as an unnecessary expense to taxpayers.

Instead, the area chose to spend money on a 15-unit shelter, Reedy Place, which cost around $1 million. Another building with eight units cost just $624,000 and was added in 2009.

Charlotte, NC, also changed their strategy in dealing with homelessness and opened Moore Place in 2011, which provided housing for 85 chronically homeless people. Medical care costs were $2.5 million the year before those 85 residents moved in; their first year at Moore Place, that number dropped to just $761,000, and arrests declined dramatically, as well.