Fixing America In 500 Words Or Less


Chapter 61

CAN WE AFFORD TO
HOUSE THE HOMELESS?


       It may sound callous and indifferent to say it would save taxpayers significantly to house the homeless.  But we apparently live in a nation of many callous and indifferent people, who seem to think it's in their own best interest to simply ignore the homeless.

       Based on actual calculations by the state of Utah of how much it costs to arrest and jail the homeless and provide emergency room services, the average cost per homeless person to the taxpayers of Utah is over $16,500 per year.  Utah has discovered housing the homeless instead, including the cost of providing a social worker, costs the taxpayers about $11,000 annually, a savings to the taxpayer of over $5500 per homeless individual. ¹

       Unlike many cities continuing to pour taxpayer dollars down the drain arresting, jailing and re-arresting the homeless, Utah has since 2005 began offering those without shelter an apartment and, the entire state is on pace to eliminate homelessness by 2015.  While housing the homeless for no cost might not be the best idea, most certainly housing them for one-third of their income, regardless of what it is, would save taxpaying citizens significantly.

       Not included in the above calculations, are many other additional not so obvious costs to taxpayers when cities refuse to provide affordable housing. Perhaps most importantly and least understood by American citizens in general, it is a well-established historical fact that pandemics and plagues typically arise among the poorest sections within large urban areas, where adequate shelter, nutrition and medical care is most lacking.

       Scientists for several years have been warning that major plague is long overdue and could erupt at any time here in the 21st Century.  Disease knows no economic or other boundaries and can quickly spread in all directions upward and outward.  It isn't an exaggeration at all to say that failing to provide adequate shelter, nutrition and medical care for everyone within our borders, is simply begging for national and global disaster to erupt.  No one is safe from contagious diseases, regardless of how wealthy or insulated we may be, nor are any of our own children. ²

       Many millions of federal, state, county and city tax dollars are spent in various ways on social outreach services and similar programs that would not be spent if there was no homeless population.  And, many billions more are spent by private charities, much of which is donated by taxpaying citizens. The total cost of private donations combined with various taxpayer funded social outreach programs, significantly adds to the total expense of not housing the homeless.

       With all costs included, it is at least 50% less expensive to house a homeless person, charging them one-third of their income, than to not house the same homeless person.  American cities could begin buying up vacant homes and other structures and start housing the homeless, which would have the added benefit of reducing crime, stabilizing and driving up property values in distressed neighborhoods.

       Can we afford NOT to house the homeless?  You decide. ³





NOTES:

1. Studies conducted by Philip Mangano, former National Homeless Policy Czar under both presidents Bush and Obama, reveal that it costs taxpayers on national, state and local taxation levels, far more to not house a homeless person than to house the same homeless person.  Costs for arresting and jailing America's poor, as well as costs for hospitalization, medical expenses, shelters, social workers and other taxpayer supported services, can range from $35,000 to well over $150,000 annually per homeless individual, while costs to house the same individual range from $13,000 to $25,000 annually.  Many homeless people are employed, receive social security or some other income and, when cities charge them 30 percent of their income for housing, annual savings to taxpayers can be considerably more. Link to Philip Mangano Interview.

According to a Los Angeles study, it costs taxpayers in Los Angeles $605 per month to house homeless veterans, while it costs the same taxpayers $2,900 per month in law enforcement, jail, court, health care and other costs to not house them: Link to Los Angeles County Comparative Cost Analysis.  Phoenix, Arizona has dramatically reduced the number and taxpayer costs of homeless veterans by housing rather than arresting them: Link to NY Times Arizona Article.  After conducting studies clearly demonstrating it is statistically far less expensive to house than to not house homeless people, the State of Utah is now on course to virtually eliminate homelessness entirely by 2015: Link to Utah Article.

In Florida it cost the taxpayers of Osceola County over 5 million dollars to repeatedly arrest and jail 37 homeless people over a period of ten years, not including police, court and health costs, while it would have cost only about 3.5 million to house them instead, including rent and utilities: Link to Florida Article.  According to a study conducted by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, released after these chapters above and below were written and thus not mentioned in them, "Florida residents pay $31,065 per chronically homeless person every year they live on the streets", while it would cost the same Florida taxpayers only "$10,051 per homeless person to give them a permanent place to live and services like job training and health care", representing a 68% savings in taxpayer dollars: Link to Florida Commission on Homelessness study.  According to the Denver Business Journal, it costs $50,000 annually to not house the homeless, far more than it would cost to house the same homeless individuals: Denver Study.

2. The United States loses many billions if not trillions of dollars in lost productivity annually due to the simple fact that people without adequate health care, when they contract contagious diseases, still have to go to work, take public transportation, still attend public gatherings and events, still eat and shop in public establishments and, their children still attend public schools.  Obviously, people who are sick are not going to be as productive as people who are healthy and quite obviously, untreated contagious diseases get spread around to others, whether they have health care or not who in return, will spread such diseases around to even more people.  Nobody wants common colds, flues and other communicable diseases, regardless of how good of quality our health care may be.

Modern antibiotics may not cure common diseases, but they very much serve to keep them in check and, people who can't afford to go to the doctor and obtain medicine are obviously ticking time bombs endangering the health and welfare of us all.  It is quite literally insane for a modern nation to not insure that everyone within it's borders has access to affordable quality health care.  People without adequate rest, shelter and nutrition sleeping under bridges and otherwise out in the open, are going to get sick much more easily and frequently than people with adequate resources and, they are going to be less physically able to be productive citizens.  Disease knows no economic, political or other boundaries and, many once mighty nations have fallen due in large part due to human disease turning into plague.

In many nations with universal and considerable better health care than the majority receive in the United States, like Japan for example, the average citizen pays about the same and many pay even less taxes than average citizens in the United States and yet, they receive much better government-paid benefits back in return.  Some Europeans pay higher taxes, but they receive much better benefits like free child care and guaranteed lengthy paid vacations, along with universal and better quality health care back in return, thus at the bottom line they pay less out of pocket than our citizens.  U.S. citizens are taxed much more than many realize when federal income taxes and social security, workers compensation, state, county, local, sales, gasoline and other taxes and fees are combined.  While not covering nearly adequately the vast disparity between what U.S. citizens receive compared to what citizens in other nations receive for their tax dollars, the Article Linked Here provides some good examples.

One of the main reasons we receive a lot less benefits back from our government for taxes paid in, is because private health insurance companies are quite literally, sucking trillions of dollars out of our economy, meanwhile providing no legitimate necessary function in return. Instead of having a relatively simple organized universal health care system, our U.S. system is a great mass of bloated, redundant and often indecipherable confusion, which drains immeasurable employee hours and immeasurable dollars from hospitals and other actual medical providers in paperwork alone, while providing our citizens on average, with less quality health care than thirty-six nations above our global ranking of #37 in the world, including some of what are traditionally considered to be "third-world" nations.  Many U.S. citizens have horror stories of being put on hold for long periods of time when trying to deal with private insurance companies--horror stories of often very sick people who are recovering from serious operations and illnesses, who are mentally and emotionally run through the wringer by private insurance companies reluctant to pay their end of the bargain.

The other main reason we receive far less bang for our tax dollar buck is that the United States spends a far greater percentage of GDP on military appropriations than any other nation on earth.  And to add insult to injury, unlike nations with taxpayer supported health care systems, in the United States corporations and other companies spend trillions of dollars insuring their workers, which results in much higher prices for goods and services than consumers otherwise would pay.  There is no free ride for health care; somebody is going to pay dearly for what companies compensate their workers and, that "somebody" is every U.S. consumer.

To compare, the United States currently spends about 16% of GDP on health care, while the next highest nation France, spends about 11% and, every other nation on earth spends less than France, even though 36 nations have better quality health care than we receive in the United States.  And unlike here where many millions of citizens have no health coverage and many more have inadequate coverage, in nations with universal health care, all citizens are covered.  See Chapter 9, Should We Care if Everyone has Health Care? for more information.

3. Homeless Statistics.  For more information, see also Chapter 3, Why Are There Homeless Veterans in America?, Chapter 57, Is Music City Becoming the Meanest City in America? and Chapter 63 Where is the Great American Dream?



Bonus Chapter

HOW APPALLING CAN
AMERICAN CITY LEADERS BE?


       Studies conducted by Philip Mangano, former National Homeless Policy Czar under both presidents Bush and Obama, reveal that it costs taxpayers far more to not house a homeless person than to house the same homeless person.

       Recent studies conducted by Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City arrive at the same conclusion.  Salt Lake City, Phoenix and other cities have significantly reduced homelessness by providing affordable housing, rather than arresting, jailing and re-arresting homeless American citizens.

       Costs for arresting and jailing America's poor, as well as costs for hospitalization, medical expenses, shelters, social workers and other taxpayer supported services, can range from $35,000 to well over $150,000 annually per homeless individual, while costs to house the same individual range from $13,000 to $25,000 annually.  Many homeless people are employed, receive social security or some other income and, when cities charge them 30 percent of their income for housing, annual savings can be considerably more.

       According to The Contributor newspaper, Metro Nashville made 4,175 homeless related arrests in 2012, mostly for trespassing and obstructing a passageway.  It makes no legitimate or rational sense at all for any city to be engaging in such cruel and immoral practices, as arresting American citizens for the 'crime' of being poor solves absolutely nothing.

       The same individuals are soon back on the street and re-arrested again, often a great many times, all at taxpayer expense.  Nashville's homeless citizens are frequently fined considerable amounts they can't afford to pay and, failure to appear or resolve such charges on their records, makes it even harder for them to find permanent employment and housing.

       We as long-suffering taxpayers need to inform our district attorney, mayor, city council members, chief of police and other city leaders, that we are appalled when our cities arrest American citizens for the 'crime' of being poor, rather than constructing affordable housing. which would cost us taxpayers far less, as well as be greatly beneficial to the homeless.  Nashville's current city leadership even refuses to provide public restrooms downtown, a clear and present public health danger for tourists and every local resident.

       Providing affordable housing in the larger picture, besides being a great blessing for the homeless, would also be a significant benefit for public health, tourism and other business interests and every non-homeless citizen.  And doing so would quite literally save many millions of taxpayer dollars; tax dollars that are currently being carelessly and callously utterly wasted for no good reason at all.

       Rather than invading and bulldozing tent encampments of the poor, American cities should be using bulldozers to clear the way for construction of affordable housing.  Otherwise, we the voting taxpayers should be using our vote to bulldoze them out of office.

       Every conservative, moderate and liberal taxpayer should be very upset and utterly appalled at the cruel, indifferent, grossly immoral and economically nonsensical current approach of many American city leaders and other public officials towards the homeless and poor of our nation.

       How apalling can American city leaders be?  You decide.








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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © Jaunary 7th, 2014 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © February 1st, 2014 by Freedom Tracks Records.

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