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Throwing Cash at the Homeless Crisis

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Donna chiede elemosina in strada nell'indifferenza dei passanti

Los Angeles announced bold new plans to spend $100 million to help the estimated 26,000 homeless people who occupy the city’s streets and parklands, representing a real threat to public health and safety. This comes to less than $4,000 per person—hardly enough to fix a broken life.

L.A.’s homeless problem is clearly a crisis, but the liberal instinct to throw money at every problem never works: six years ago the Obama administration pledged to end homelessness among veterans within 5 years, but the problem remains as bad as ever—despite federal spending on homeless programs that has swelled to $5 billion a year. Two essential elements are missing from such folly: a clear recognition that most homeless people are substance abusers, mentally ill or both, needing aggressive psychiatric attention and a clear declaration that no one has a right to camp on sidewalks or parks.

Programs that make it easier to continue living on the streets will do more harm than good.

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  1. Jay Pole  •  Oct 2, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    – A nationally recognized program to house Charlotte’s chronically homeless continues to help people and save money as it enters its fourth year, according to a UNC Charlotte report.

    The 85-unit apartment complex at Moore Place provides housing for individuals who have extensive histories of homelessness and at least one disabling condition.

    The new study led by Lori Thomas, professor of social work in the College of Health and Human Services, found that Moore Place effectively ends homelessness for the vast majority of its tenants; 81 percent of those who participated in the study remained in permanent housing after two years. Tenants were homeless an average of seven years prior to finding housing at Moore Place.

    The impact on tenants’ relationship with the health care system is equally significant. During the two years since moving in, Moore Place tenants visited emergency rooms 648 fewer times (81 percent reduction) and were in the hospital 292 fewer days (62 percent reduction) than the two years prior. This led to a $2.4 million decrease in total billing, a drop of nearly 70 percent.

    Thomas said the transformation in the way tenants take care of their health is among the report’s most telling findings.

    And indeed, tenants’ time at Moore Place was accompanied by a dramatic decrease in the use of expensive emergency services and an increase in the use of preventative care. Residents called Mecklenburg County EMS 312 fewer times in the two years after they moved into Moore place than the two years before, a 76 percent drop.

    Instead of ambulance calls and ER visits, tenants began to address their health needs with visits to primary care doctors and through planned procedures, according to the study. Use of outpatient services increased by 53 percent.

  2. cynthia lebowitz  •  Oct 4, 2015 at 10:44 am

    We have a terrible homeless population in HI and the state spends a lot every week on ‘clean up’s’ to move the homeless out just to have them come back to clean streets. While most are substance abusers, mentally ill or both would it not be good to have a resident clinic to contain and treat these folks while possibly shipping the others to places where we now hire migrant workers from 3rd world countries. If they are able they must work and like many, might have to move to get work. Perhaps we can solve some of the illegal immigrant crisis by filling their jobs with the homeless.

    • Jay Pole  •  Oct 5, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      I don’t think that forcing people to move and work is constitutional any more, Cynthia. It’s called slavery.

      Homeless people don’t just need a safe place to stay, they need health care and rehabilitation. When these services are provided on site, the costs of emergency room care fall like a stone.

      • Joe Marshall  •  Oct 6, 2015 at 2:37 am

        Forcing them to move is as the article states, a clear declaration that it is no one has the right to camp on the sidewalks or parks. This is enforced through a sit/lie bill passed by the state. This is what Cynthia is referring to. Also, requiring someone to work to stay in provided housing is not slavery, it’s responsiblity. Given the opportunity, most, not all will want to help themselves once they are given a leg up.

  3. Bob Schmidt  •  Oct 6, 2015 at 8:35 am

    In ’65 my roommate brought into our house a homeless Korean War Vet. I got him a job at the place I worked. That started a long run of housing the homeless by a loose group of 15 of us. To inoculate us from urban renewal, which was a great creator of homeless families, We participated in spot demolition of the worst apartment buildings. I transitioned to owning the demolition targets and providing “intense maintenance”. I rented to many homeless/near-homeless, never asking a deposit. I found jobs for my tenants. They followed the example and found jobs for each other. Some chose to go (or stay) on welfare. But it was a net positive.
    Then I ran into psychological problems, very depressed. Individual friends (political allies) helped me through a 6 year period of non-functionality. Other “friends” suggested I start drinking/amphetamines/etc to forget my problems. It was a common recommendation to others who were depressed. I recognized it as bad advice. Others took that bad advice.

    There is an unrecognized activity of many individuals that is working to deal effectively with homelessness of the depressed, the schizos, the paranoid. But of those many true “activists” few are successful at dealing with alcohol/drug dependent homeless.

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