Housing First: Saving Lives, Saving Public Funds

The cost of chronic homelessness has been estimated at approximately $40,000 per year, including emergency health services, incarceration and policing, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, all while the costs to the individual The most effective way to improve these individuals’ health and quality of life and to reduce public costs is stable, permanent housing. Housing First is a program that quickly places individuals who have been chronically homeless in permanent housing, instead of going through the shelter and transitional housing process. Once placed in housing, they are provided with intensive supportive services. Empirically, this is the most effective approach to ending chronic homelessness, as demonstrated by its success around the country.

  • A Housing First program that provided services and permanent housing to 95 chronically homeless individuals with alcohol use disorder. The study, published in the Journal of American Medicine, estimated that housing these individuals saved taxpayers $4 million in the first year alone.
  • Denver’s Housing First program found an annual average cost savings of $31,545 per participant.
  • Los Angeles found that housing individuals experiencing chronic homelessness reduced public costs by 79%.
  • Most importantly, studies have consistently shown that Housing First dramatically improves the quality of life of participants. Since implementing Housing First programs in 2005, Utah has seen its chronic homelessness rate drop by 74% and continues to see declines every year.
  • Phoenix-area providers used the Housing First model for the first time and paid for 35 chronically homeless people to move into two Phoenix housing complexes. So far, the method has had a 95 percent success rate and no one has returned to homelessness

in the news

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell features Housing First as a key component in his plan to reduce homelessness on Oahu: