Sunday, June 21, 2009

Forget about compassion.
This makes economic sense!

Kelly Hall, a new shelter in Punta Gorda, embraces a controversial model of allowing residents to continue drinking and using drugs during their stay for up two years.

"It goes against conventional wisdom," said Jerry Thompson, president of Coastal Behavioral Health Care, the nonprofit group running the program. "But in the worst-case scenario, someone stays for two years and continues using, it's still cheaper to taxpayers than all the nights in jail and all the trips to the emergency room if they were out on the street."

Kelly Hall, a peach-colored ranch house that holds up to 52 people in rural southern Charlotte County, models a national strategy called "housing first" which is credited with driving down the nation's chronically homeless population by 30% between 2005 and 2007 -- the first significant drop in decades.

Studies have shown that the cost of housing-first rehabilitation can save taxpayers anywhere from $40,000 to $56,000 per homeless person annually, mostly by avoiding the cost of jail and emergency medical services. In New York, 11% of homeless residents left the housing first program without seeking help, compared with more than half of those in other types of rehabilitation programs. The study also showed that residents were three times more likely to abstain from heavy drinking.

In Florida, the majority of the 275 beds in housing first programs are in Miami.

Read the Sarasota Herald-Tribune article here. And check out the post at End Homelessness.


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