When doing the right thing saves millions of dollars, that’s a local story powerful enough to capture the attention of the national media.
On March 24, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte released a study of the one-year impact of supportive housing on the lives of chronically homeless people. Focusing on the 85 residents of Urban Ministry’s Moore Place, the team of researchers found dramatic evidence documenting the savings in health care and incarceration costs. These include:
A 78% drop in the number of Emergency Room visits (down from 571 to 124).
A 79% reduction in the number of days spent in the hospital (down from 471 to 99).
A 70% reduction in total hospital costs (down from $2,547,447 to $760,767), representing a savings of $1.8 million in health care alone
In addition, researchers discovered a 78% drop in total arrests from 500 to 82, and an 84% drop in total jail days from 46 to just 10.
First reported in the Charlotte Observer, the story gained national attention when the Huffington Post picked up on the research and declared “Housing The Homeless Not Only Saves Lives — It’s Actually Cheaper Than Doing Nothing.”
Says Huffington: “Moore Place is the first homeless facility in Charlotte with a ‘housing first’ model. Housing first is based on the notion that homeless individuals can more effectively deal with other issues — such as addiction, employment and physical or mental health — once they have housing.”
UNCC assistant professor Lori Thomas, who directed the study, said she found the health care and incarceration improvement among the tenants particularly notable, given how vulnerable the tenants are. Most tenants have two or more disabling health-related conditions, and nearly half suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the study reported.
“This compassionate perspective is a better way to honor the humanity of a person, but it also works from a fiscally responsible perspective,” Thomas said. “This really is a win-win.