We get a lot of questions on the cost of ending homelessness here in King County. One big one: Is it really $1,000 to get someone off the streets?
It’s slight disbelief when we start sharing about our Streets to Home program. And then we back it up when we talk of the program’s effectiveness and return on investment.
Streets to Home is all about getting people off the street, out of their cars, and out of shelter into a warm, dry, calm place to live that is of their choice. Streets to Home is designed to meet people where they are, using financial and other resources to get them where they need to be along life’s journey. And on average, it’s a cost of $1,000 per person.
The Theory of Everything Homelessness
There are a lot of reports and theories now on how much money it would take to end the homelessness crisis in Seattle and King County. Crosscut has one on how much is being spent already.
There are also a lot of theories on who should pay up.
But at United Way, we’re keeping the big picture in mind while taking it one person at a time. And we hold this as fact, not theory: It’s not the people who are the problem. It’s the injustices of what caused them to become homeless. Take a look at how much some of these injustices cost.
Streets to Home—How It Works
Outreach staff—Streets to Home navigators—provide flexible funds so they can individualize the support.
We work with 20 other agencies, including Compass Housing Alliance and Chief Seattle Club, who partnered from the start. New-this-year partners include Mary’s Place and New Beginnings.
It’s also a unique population we’re working with in Streets to Home. Everyone has some form of income, whether it’s a part-time job or Section 8 voucher.
According to Seattle Housing Authority, “The Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly Section 8), helps low-income families, individuals, seniors and people with disabilities pay their monthly rent in privately owned apartments or houses.”Learn more.
Cost of Ending Homelessness: Only A Grand?
The $1,000 is true, according to two years of running, fine-tuning and expanding the Streets to Home program to reach more people who need it. Helping people bypass the shelter system can lead to a more rapid housing solution and better long-term results. This brings the overall cost of the crisis down.
Often, the cost of ending homelessness as simple as $25 in transportation to get to family nearby—a place for someone to stay while they regain their bearings. Other times it’s $3,000 for security deposit and first/last months’ rent to get a family into a unit of their own.
One person may need help removing an eviction from their record. Another, like Ron did, may need a short motel stay to get their bearing during a medical crisis before moving on to the next step of housing.
The costs of people’s needs certainly spans a range. But the average hovers at or below $1,000.
How The Costs Add Up
Imagine what else in life costs about $1,000. Moving across the country for a new job—done it. A long-weekend getaway—done it. Twenty people’s parking for a Seahawks game—haven’t done it, but ouch. All parts of life that most people plan for. But nobody plans on being homeless.
If only more of our plans also included people sleeping in tents in the rain. How do we spend, and what’s our role in issues that cause suffering for others? If only we saw homelessness as the injustice it is.
$1,000 isn’t a lot in the world of money. We recognize, though, that $1,000 isn’t doable for every do-gooder. But consider this: Pearl Jam’s Home Shows over the summer raised $10.8 million for the homelessness response. That’s $111 donated from each of the estimated 90,000 fans who attended the two Seattle concerts. $111! Unity is what makes this doable. Unity will end homelessness.