The Cost of Homelessness
Not only does chronic homelessness cause untold human suffering, it is an expensive and inefficiently managed societal problem. The cost of homelessness includes hospitalization, medical treatment, incarceration, police intervention and emergency shelters for the homeless.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, homeless people when hospitalized tend to stay an average of four days longer per visit–that’s an extra cost of approximately $2,414 per visit.
A study of homeless people in Hawaii found that their rate of psychiatric hospitalization was over 100 times higher than that for non-homeless people. Researchers estimated the excess cost at $2,000 per person.
Serious health issues both cause and are caused by homelessness. Lack of housing inhibits care, aggravates existing problems and makes them both more dangerous and more expensive.
Too often, emergency shelters serve as long-term housing. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded shelter beds cost around $8,067 more per year than a federal housing subsidy (Section 8).
Prisons and Jails
Incarceration has historically been commonly used as a “shelter” for the destitute. Homeless people tend to spend more time in jail or prison, often as a result of laws against loitering, sleeping in cars, and begging.
A typical cost of a prison bed in a state or federal prison is $20,000 per year.
Learn More about Cost Savings from Housing First
A study done in LA entitled “Where We Sleep” found that the typical public cost for homeless persons is five times greater than that of similar individuals in supportive housing.
Placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles resulted in more than $80,000 per year in savings to taxpayers and improved quality of life for the individuals, according to a recent USC study.