No matter how you look at it, there is a cost to ending homelessness. It would behoove us then to find the least expensive means to that end. And, there is no perfect solution to ending homelessness, so it would also behoove us to find the method with the best success rate.
Both, government and private sector non-profits have discovered over the past few years that the “Housing First” model works better than any other program currently available. It has been proven to get homeless people off the streets, and keep them off the streets, for approximately $17,000 a year per person. Rescue missions, and other shelters spend approximately $20,000 to $25,000 per person, per year. The Nashville Rescue Mission has beds for about 500 people a night and operates on a 11+million dollar annual budget. If the mission operates at full capacity, it is spending $20,000 per person every year. With Housing First costing only $17,000 per person per year, you can see the obvious financial benefit. Better still, Housing First gets homeless people off the streets IMMEDIATELY, while rescue missions make no promise of ever getting people off the streets. Instead, rescue missions require that homeless people go throw the mission’s rehab programs, on rescue mission property, for a year or more. For 10 million dollars a year, Housing First can get 588 homeless people off the streets, and keep them off the streets. Rescue Missions can make no such claim as the majority of their efforts are geared towards managing homelessness, not ending it. As the former director of the Nashville Rescue Mission, Don Worrell, was often quoted as saying “I’m not interested in ending homelessness. My job is to convert people to Christianity.”