How Utah's Solution to Homeless Saves Taxpayers Money, Creates Jobs and Empowers the Powerless

Back in 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of emergency room visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with a home and a social worker. Since then Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.

Most of the progress Utah has made in ending chronic homelessness has happened with no new money. Utah's success has come from a breaking Housing Works program, in part, and by realizing that here is no 'one size fits all' solution. For instance, the Salt Lake City has the same type of homeless problems all urban areas do but in other areas its often ingcreasinly famlies who are homeless. Recognizing this, Utah's solution starts with each county and community deciding for themselves how best to provide the homeless homes in their area.

Another successful aspect of The State of Utah's Housing First approach is to concentrate first on housing folks so they can focus on stabilizing their disabling condition in a safe and supportive environment. UItah decided that their housing program not be contingent on participation in supportive treatment programs or an expectation of abstention from drugs or alcohol, but on the basics of good tenancy. Residents are guaranteed stable housing as long they are good stewards of their personal and shared housing areas and maintain good relations with other tenants, case managers, and property managers.

The Utah model recognizes a homeless citizen's rights and those citizens recognize their personal responsibilities. Seems obvious, give respct, get respect. It sounds like Utah borrowed a page from 'Homes Not Handcuffs', the 2009 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless.

Another important point is that the program creates jobs in Utah through the ELEMENTAL concept which was developed by leading Chilean architects Elemental, led by Alejandro Aravena. ELEMENTAL has developed a system in which half of each building would be constructed in a first phase – and the other half in a later second phase: allowing residents to incrementally invest in their own homes. Since they first developed the typology for their Quinta Monroy project in Iquique, Chile, the “half-finished home” has become something of a signature for ELEMENTAL and is now being used all over the world as well as under study in almost all of the other U.S. states.

As the picture above shows, these homes are actually more than half built in that the services, foundations and roofs etc. make them more like 3/4 built. Nonetheless, somebody has o build them, so all the trades people have more jobs. Somebody has to supply the materials, so local busineses get more business.  Somebody finances it so either the damned banks [who do hire people] or the local govt [who also hires people] gets more dough while the tenants rent-to-own pays them off.

All those folks and companies [including the banks in theory] pay taxes. Those new tax revenues will further cut the per capita price tag mentioned in the first paragraph. Yikes! A win-win-win result that looks like a hippy-dippy commie pinko plan turns out to be a conservative one.

Utah is a land of 'Enchanment' the brochures say. i've been there many times, it's also the land of many good people of different stripes who show each other respect as a default setting, an attitude we all should adopt.