Thursday, September 28, 2006

Homes First

Though it has been customary to predicate housing for the homeless on their first agreeing to utilize the remedial services deemed necessary to solve the individual’s problems causing their homelessness, it hasn’t worked. What has worked is just providing a home first, the bare necessities of shelter and security, and then bring services into play.

We called for this approach to be used in Sacramento to deal with the illegal camping on the Parkway, in our report of September 2005 and agree with this editorial; good job all around.

An excerpt.

Editorial: Shelter first
Sacramento grapples with homelessness
- Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sacramento leaders deserve credit for moving forward with a bold, broad and smart plan to tackle homelessness.

The 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness approved unanimously by the City Council and county Board of Supervisors takes a shelter-first approach.

That means that before government agencies try to address the underlying cause of homelessness for people living on the streets -- be it mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction -- they must first deal with the essence of homelessness, which is having no place to live. So the first priority is to provide stable shelter.

To make that possible, the plan calls for the creation of 500 new units to house homeless people over the next five years. Those units will supplement housing that social service agencies already provide.

Experts on homelessness estimate the new shelter-first plan will cost $27,000 to provide housing and services per person served per year. That sounds like a lot of money. But it costs even more to do nothing: an estimated $42,000 a year in police, emergency room visits and other government services.