Praying for the homeless is one thing, but what are our communities, states and national governments doing about it?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
This New Yorker article wrote about how the State of Utah started a program in 2005 that eventually led to a 72% decrease in homelessness.
At the time, the standard approach was to try to make homeless people “housing ready”: first, you got people into shelters or halfway houses and put them into treatment; only when they made progress could they get a chance at permanent housing. Utah, though, embraced a different strategy, called Housing First: it started by just giving the homeless homes.
This “Housing First” program actually cost less than traditional approaches. According to Salt Lake City, traditional approaches in helping the homeless had cost the city annually $20,000 per person on average. Under the “Housing First” program, it cost the tax-payer only $8,000/person per year. Colorado’s program confirms the cost-savings: $43,000/year to help a chronically homeless person versus $17,000/year (saving over 60% annually).
Housing First isn’t just cost-effective. It’s more effective, period. The old model assumed that before you could put people into permanent homes you had to deal with their underlying issues—get them to stop drinking, take their medication, and so on. Otherwise, it was thought, they’d end up back on the streets. But it’s ridiculously hard to get people to make such changes while they’re living in a shelter or on the street. “If you move people into permanent supportive housing first, and then give them help, it seems to work better,” Nan Roman, the president and C.E.O. of the National Alliance for Homelessness, told me. “It’s intuitive, in a way. People do better when they have stability.” Utah’s first pilot program placed seventeen people in homes scattered around Salt Lake City, and after twenty-two months not one of them was back on the streets. In the years since, the number of Utah’s chronically homeless has fallen by seventy-four per cent.
Praise God for the love He worked through these people. May their charity continue to be a shining light to the world and may their works draw more people to Christ.