February 8, 2015

Housing would be cheaper cure for homelessness, legislators are told

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Homeless cropped

Photo above by moriza, Flickr Creative Commons License

By Rebecca Lessner

For MarylandReporter.com

As Maryland’s homeless situation becomes “especially dire,” the creation of affordable housing for the homeless would be cheaper than the cost of shelter efforts, Director Adam Schneider of Health Care for the Homeless told a Senate budget subcommittee Friday.

“Shelters cost about $30 per person, per night. That’s $900 we are spending monthly to keep people homeless.” Schneider said before the Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

“That is a shocking figure, when we consider that for that amount we could be housing people.” Schneider said.

This year, there was a shortage of housing for 190,000 households below 150% of the area median income this year. It has grown by 70,000 houses in the past 10 years, and the state uses a lottery system to determine who will be able to live in low-income housing.

“I work in Baltimore City,” said Schneider, “where the Section Eight housing waiting list was open for 9 days at end of October. 74,000 households applied to go into a lottery for 25,000 slots.”

Out of those 74,000 households, only one-tenth will get housing aid. Currently, Baltimore County’s waitlist is nine-years, Schneider said those applying now would “maybe” receive assistance at the end of that period.

Currently Howard, Montgomery, Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties’ low-income housing waitlists are closed.

“It’s bad for business when business employees cannot afford to live,” Schneider said.

Baltimore County’s lowest wage workers need “3 full time jobs to afford housing at fair market rent,” he said.

“Homelessness is very expensive,” Schneider said, pointing out that individuals on the streets also create emergency room, jail and shelter costs.

Homelessness raises health costs

Chauna Brocht, a social worker of nine years and leader of the Convalescent Care Program, also testified about her most medically vulnerable clients who have become homeless after medical emergencies.

“We know that homelessness exacerbates health conditions..it creates a cycle of emergency department use and poor health outcomes.” Brocht said.

Boston Healthcare for the Homeless program found that for 119 street-individuals, there were 18,000 ER visits and over 900 hospitalizations in five-years. It was found that homeless individuals average a cost of $28,000 a year for hospital visits, versus the average $6,000 a year for an individual who manages to receive housing.

He wishes to copy states like Minnesota and Massachusetts.

Minnesota invested $100 million in capital funding in the creation of affordable housing, which not only saved money but also created jobs. And Massachusetts created a program called Home and Healthy for Good, funded through their state budget, which was created “as a result of mounting evidence from around the country that Housing First strategies result in tremendous cost savings to cities and states.”

The subcommittee listened as Schneider recounted watching Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works clear out a homeless encampment the day before. From across the street, he watched as blankets and provisions were tossed away, individuals coming back to find nothing left.

“That was terrible,” he said, “and that’s a result of an inadequate supply of affordable housing.”

RebeccaAnnLessner@gmail.com

  • snowmaggedoned

    Wow….I’m confused! I thought Obama told us that our economy is doing great and that unemployment is the lowest it has been in 7 years. Maybe not????

  • Ken Sandin

    Adam Schneider is correct, of course, but the American political and economic systems have a history of rejecting humane solutions, even when they save money.

    Barack Obama in 2003:
    “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.”I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

    And then there’s the fiscally ruinous insanity of unwinnable and endless wars;

    • Dale McNamee

      And the estimated $22 trillion in poverty program spending since LBJ and the ” Great Society ” hasn’t eliminated poverty… But,it enriched the “poverty pimp industry” instead…

      Obamacare has failed by having the insured paying more for less…

      • Ken Sandin

        How compassionate! And why haven’t we been able to eliminate poverty? The Brazilian Catholic priest Dom Helder Camara said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”
        And the ACA has the insured paying more to subsidize the wasteful ($400 billion/year) private insurance system..

        • Dale McNamee

          All I stated was how government,especially the Federal Gov’t.

          As to “compassion”, why don’t you invite one into your home ? I did and it ended badly…

          Also, I and other taxpayers spent the $22 trillion for nothing but increased poverty. Again, all of the “compassionate” gov’t. agencies and the “caring friends of the poor”, failed miserably.

          Exploding EBT card fraud, Section 8 housing, etc.

          I count success in how many people don’t need gov’t. programs to live.

          Don’t get me started on ACA… High deductibles that have the effect of NOT HAVING insurance… So, I pay premiums for “nothing”.

          I prefer the pre-Obamacare insurance system… Affordable (for us) and decent deductibles…

          Stop drinking Obama’s “koolaid”, Ken