The Homeless in Atlanta: A Reflection on controversy

correct. And it’s inappropriate and outright dangerous to force those struggling to survive to have to deal with these people.

Again, we differ in opinion. You don’t like the fact that there are people who refuse help. Their “camp” is wherever they can illegally pitch it and it doesn’t come with a lease.

I know, I’m not saying they should be allowed to just live anywhere. I’m saying they do have to live somewhere. Just about anywhere on the streets/parks/underpasses/etc. is going to be a nuisance (or worse) to someone and kicking them out of one place is just moving the problem somewhere else.

It’s not really that I don’t like that some people refuse help. The program I was talking about doesn’t force help on anyone. It offers it, but they are not required to participate in any of the services available. They can sit in their room and drink all day every day if they want. That’s not an ideal way to spend one’s life but it’s better than any alternatives anyone has tried for these particular people. Not just better for them, but better for the rest of us too.

I honestly don’t see how this helps anyone. What problem did this solve?

It helped the community by saving millions of dollars and getting some very troublesome people off the streets. It helped the individuals by giving them an appropriate place to live and their health improved because they voluntarily cut down on drinking.

how exactly did it save the community millions of dollars?

These people were being arrested and hospitalized very frequently when they were on the streets. Now that is happening far less often. I think it said that they were costing the city an average of $4k/month each, and in the apartment it’s more like $1k/month.

Not to poke holes in your theory but what changes between a tent and a room and how does this protect the needy from the trouble makers? In other words, we already have community centers that house people in need. Bring me up to speed on this because I’m all for saving tax dollars. What’s different?

Most shelters and group homes don’t allow alcohol and in fact may require participation in a treatment program, and these people will live on the street before they’ll stop drinking. But when living on the street, they end up drinking significantly more, plus there are all kinds of other health problems that plague homeless people. And they’re being arrested for things like public intoxication, which doesn’t happen if they’re drinking in their apartment.

It isn’t MY theory, it appears to be a reality that, as far as I see, no one is refuting. I don’t see anyone saying that the numbers showing that it saves money are incorrect because XYZ. The only people I’ve seen who are against it are against it just because of a general feeling that it enables people, or that they don’t deserve a place to live under the circumstances, or that kind of thing. But there’s no evidence that it does enable them and plenty of evidence that says otherwise.

The program uses the Housing First model.

One issue with shelters is they have check-in and check-out times. You’re not even guaranteed a bed unless you show up early and if you have a job and need to be working during those hours, you’re out of luck. For instance, on Sundays I work two jobs, one from 12 noon to 5 pm, then the other from 6 to midnight. Then on Tuesdays I work the late shift, from 9 pm to whenever we get done (about 2 am). If I didn’t have an apartment to go home to, I’d be sleeping in the subway I guess, since no shelter is going to let me check in at 2-3 am, or have a bed for me even if they open their doors at that hour.

I read it and picked out some linked data to look through. The first thing I spotted was the way information was gathered. It’s voluntary. So I would assume the data is skewed toward people on a path of success. I’ll pick through the whole thing and report back.

Just so Blackberry doesn’t have to fight the good fight alone:

Utah is on track to end homelessness by 2015 with one simple idea

Yeah, having worked with the homeless, and knowing there’s at least three different sorts, any program that’s “One simple idea” is bound to fail. Even that plan has only gotten a 74% success rate, which means they have taken the creme of the easiest types off the streets.

Mind you, I am not saying this is a bad idea. In theory I like it. And, certainly we need to house the % who were “one paycheck away from being homeless- and that paycheck didn’t come”.

But what do we do with the hardcore mentally ill or drugged out homeless, the ones that will crap in the corners? I suspect also that Utah doesn’t have that many of that class, they are usually in Big Urban centers.

Or how about the homeless by choice? Round them up and force them in? Some like the lifestyle. I suspect they simply don’t count them.

A 74% success rate strikes me as pretty dang good, especially when we’re talking about scary homeless people.

I mean, on what basis do we have to judge this as anything but excellent? Is there another program sitting on the shelf with a similar success rate? If so, I want to hear about it.

You could come up with the most fantastical program and it would still come up short for some small recalcitrant minority. But here’s an idea. We give everyone who wants to cooperate a no-strings-attached apartment. If they still want to sleep on the streets, arrest their asses. Then institutionalize them, if need be. Release them as soon as they start saying all the right things. Rinse and repeat for however long it takes. Or we can wait for them to commit an actual crime and then arrest them. Maybe with the majority of homeless people squared away, law enforcement would have extra resources to go after the “problem” people.

The public is outraged when homelessness is criminalized. But perhaps guaranteed housing would change people’s minds about this. I know it would for me.

If this saves that much money shouldn’t we reduce the medicaid budget and at the same time have them pay for it? Seems like a way to reduce the overlapping cost of administration.

Who is “they”? What does Medicaid have to do with homelessness?

Another program in, I think, Colorado is detailed in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. As much as I hate to admit it, these ideas work. And they’re not really about helping people who are lazy and stupid, they’re geared more toward just plain saving money for municipalities.

It grates on me to give these people free, no strings attached shelter, but if efficient use of resources is the goal, they’re right.

“They” is medicaid. Looking through the cites it appears there are substantial savings. If it saves medicaid large sums of money then reduce their budget and have them pay for it with the savings. Everybody wins.

Example. if it saves them 10,000 dollars and it costs $6000 to house the homeless then reduce their budget by $2000 and have them pay for shelters. Medicaid makes $2,000 in the savings.

Oh you can attach strings down the road. Sign on the dotted line and upon getting a real job you’re assessed 1/2 a percent for saving your life.

I’m all for anything that helps people and saves money. Seems like a no-brainer. But if it really saves money then use that money up front. When politicians want this and don’t want to see budgets reduced then we’ll see which direction the bullshit meter points.

Overall, it’s much cheaper on society as a whole to provide for these people in a sustainable way. If you abandon them, there is a persistent random tax of everything being missing from your home (this overlaps with drug users). If we warehouse them, like in jails, they will return with a very different code of conduct than we want them to have.

If we care for the mentally ill and give people a net to fall into and climb out of, society profits. We don’t lose potentially good minds (See how industrious people in prison are? We could harness that for good instead of shanking.) and we can use them in cases where we can benefit society. Want to digitize all of the paper records in your state? Give people an extra 50% benefits for the duration of the project. Much cheaper than hiring full employees and it puts them to effective public use. (Note, that this can NOT be open to anything but direct government agencies. No NGOs, McDonalds, etc etc)

I wonder how they decide who “these people” are? If I showed up in Utah and said oh man, I’m homeless, would they give me a free apartment? Because I would love a free apartment.

In my home town a large homeless group has taken over various local public land for camping for the last year or so. After a while they get tossed out and they just set up camp in another empty field or parking lot. The expectation is that being very visible will force the city to fund a permanent housing solution for all of them. In response some land has been made legally available for homeless camping, but the need is greater than the spaces available.

It’s pretty controversial and my feelings are mixed, as are those of nearby business owners. On the one hand I’m glad they’ve formed a community and made an attempt to create a home base of sorts, but on the other hand this town has a budget for this kind of assistance that is not large enough to serve everyone who asks. No community can give free housing to everyone who needs it indefinitely. What happens when homeless people start heading to Utah in droves and the money runs out? What about other communities that try Housing First, won’t they all eventually run out of available housing before they run out of homeless people requesting it? Especially if those who will never transition out are allowed to stay indefinitely?