Monday, January 20, 2014

Utah's doing what? Awesome!

It's not often I get excited about a news article, but today there's this:

How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail says for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but the keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

They've reduced homelessness by 78%, and are on track to eliminate it by next year. This is so awesome!

I could stop there, but I want to respond to one argument that I know (because I've already seen it) some will use to object to this idea (even though it makes fiscal sense). Namely, "so now the homeless will have no incentive to get a job." Bullshit.

Maybe you know this, but I've been homeless before. I've also had times where I had a home, but was barely scraping by. And let me tell you, there's always incentive to get a job, or a better job. Why? Because basic survival just isn't enough, at least for most people. There's things like wanting good food, instead of just Ramen for supper. There's wanting the resources to go out with friends, or the resources to go out and meet new friends. There's wanting nice clothes --not fancy designer clothes, just nice clothes. There's a variety of ways that people want to enrich their lives, and in this case, a free apartment is only step one. That gets you shelter, and that's it.

But that first step can help a lot. When people have basic needs met, and aren't spending all their time wondering where their next bite of food will come from, or where they're going to sleep, they can actually consider things like: what do I need to do to find a job, so I can improve my life? If mentally ill (as I was), it can make it easier (by a lot) to concentrate on whatever needs doing to get better, or at least manage your symptoms. And a large number of the homeless are mentally ill.

Getting off the street took a large worry of my mind. Without that in my head, I could devote more attention to getting better, which lead to having the motivation (as opposed to just incentive) to do job searching (when you're down far enough, motivation is in short supply, and it's easier to just take whatever the hell comes your way, and hope it doesn't kill you), which lead to getting a job, and more importantly, being able to hold that job.

Oh, and one more thing. Would I support this even if none of that were true (along with other things I haven't talked about)? Damn straight I would. No one should have to live on the street.

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