Homelessness is a problem that has worsened with time. In a country that prides itself on helping others, we have seen little help for the homeless here. Becky has an address of Lankersheim Blvd. There is no house number; she lives on the street. Becky is 6 months pregnant and she has been living on the streets for 4 months. She was a homemaker living with her long –time boyfriend when she found out she was pregnant. He did not want to have a child and made Becky leave. With no job, no family, and no money, Becky was alone to fend for herself and unborn child. With no address or phone number, Becky has not been able to find a job. The shelters in Los Angeles are over often full beyond capacity and unsafe. In this country of big business and money, how is it that there are few, if any, programs available to give Becky a permanent address? By using business metrics to correct the problem of homelessness, America may be able to reduce the number of people who are living on the streets, save taxpayer dollars, and provide homes for the homeless.
Business metrics is the application of business strategies to solve a problem. By using the same methods, more information can be gathered, stored and analyzed, then applied to the problem of homelessness. “Applying business logic to this intractable area of social policy is more than semantics. It is a revolution that both the public and private sectors are beginning to buy into.” (Murphy, 2006). Simply stated, this means measuring and quantifying the cost of being homeless compared to the cost of providing a home.
According to an article by Cait Murphy (2006), the cost to the taxpayers for a homeless person in New York is approximately $40,000 per year, in Dallas $50,000 per year, and in San Diego it can be as high as $150,000 per year. The estimated cost includes things such as medical care, jail time, food, clothing, and shelters. A homeless person with a minor medical problem will not usually seek out medical care due to lack of insurance and money. The person may wait until the medical problem becomes a major issue and then seek care in an emergency room. The cost could be up to $1,000.00 for what started as a minor, easily treatable problem. In a telephone interview with Lt. Billy Ruemke of the Washington County Jail (2009) he said, “Time spent in jail averages $30.00 to $40.00 per day per person.” (Ruemke, 2009) If one homeless person spends a year in jail, the cost to taxpayers is $10,680.00 to $14,240.00. Most food programs allow for $8,000.00 in food assistance per person per year. Without adding the expenses of running a shelter and clothing, the cost to taxpayers for a single homeless person is in the area of $23,000.00 a year.
The Fannie Mae Foundation and the Corporation for Supportive Housing provided housing for over 4,000 people and then tracked the expenses for a year. The total amount spent per person was about $17,000. This is substantially less than it costs to house a person in a shelter (Romeo, 2005). A person who has a home of their own, even if it is only a single room of private space is more likely to work and contribute to their own living expenses. A person who has a home and who works will be better able to manage their health, lessening the expense to taxpayers for indigent medical care.
The Bush administration created the Collaborative Initiative on Chronic Homelessness in 2003, and gave $35-million gathered from different agencies for helping the homeless. These agencies include Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and the Veterans Administration (Jennsen, 2005).
President Obama announced, during his campaign,a plan to develop an economic recovery bill. Under this bill, the National Alliance to End Homelessness is planning to ask for $2 billion to help prevent homelessness. This money would help provide mortgage payments, assist with rent payments, security deposits, utility deposits, and peripheral services. The Alliance recommends that the money go to agencies that are already getting grant money for emergency shelters. This money would serve about 200,000 households for 2 years. The Alliance is wants $10 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund. This fund helps develop affordable housing for people with very low incomes. Finally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness is asking for$3.6 billion to be used for Section 8 vouchers. This would provide roughly 400,000 vouchers to help the homeless gain shelter (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2008).
APPROACHING THE PROBLEM OF HOMELESSNESS WITH BUSINESS STRATEGIES MAY PROVIDE RELIEF TO TAXPAYERS AND HELP TO END SUFFERING OF THE HOMELESS. PROVIDING A HOME TO SOMEONE WITHOUT SHELTER WILL DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF MONEY SPENT BY TAXPAYERS FOR SUPPORT SERVICES. BY PROVIDING A HOME TO A HOMELESS PERSON, THEY WILL GAIN A PERMANENT ADDRESS, WHICH WILL HELP IN SECURING A JOB. IN ADDITION, GETTING PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS AND INTO A HOME OF THEIR OWN WILL LIKELY INCREASE THEIR DESIRE TO WORK ON THE PROBLEMS THEY ARE FACING THEREBY IMPROVING THEIR HEALTH, MENTAL WELL-BEING AND DECREASING THE CHANCES OF BECOMING HOMELESS AGAIN.
Jennsen, B. (2005, August 18). Seeking a Home Remedy, Chronicle of Philanthropy, 17 (21),
pp. 6-8 Murphy, C. (2006, April 3). The Toughest Customers. Fortune, 153 (6), p. 45
NAMI. (2003, April 18). NAMI Support President Bush’s Samaritan Initiative. Retrieved
December 22, 2008, from NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness:
National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2008, December 15). Homelessness and Economic
Recovery. Retrieved December 22, 2008 from National Alliance to End Homelessness:
Romeo, J. (2005, December). A Roof of One’s Own. Planning, 17 (11), pp. 12-16.
Ruemke, B. (2009, January 12). Lieutenant. (S. Stakes, Interviewer)