V anderbilt u niversity Center for Community Studies



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Homeless advocacy costs totaled $272,800 or $123 per homeless person.


Conclusion: In contrast to current costs related to average and chronic homelessness, the annual cost to provide permanent housing (including a reduction in existing services) is estimated at $5,907-7,618 per person, or a net per-person savings of between $1,630-3,007. The annual cost of housing plus wrap-around services is $11,500, which would be largely, but not entirely, subsidized by the reduction in existing service costs.

INTRODUCTION

As Federal responsibility for addressing homelessness has devolved to local and state governments, the need for cities to understand and accurately estimate the true costs of homelessness has become vital. These costs must be seen in terms of public as well as private services, systems, and goods provided. Many of these costs are currently unknown because some may be difficult to quantify, but mostly because so many homeless persons themselves are “hidden.” Also, finding the methods and resources to track, analyze and report costs have not been standardized or regularly budgeted.

Due to geography, weather, and an increasingly upscale housing market, Nashville has many of the variables that lead to a growing homeless population (Lee, 1989). The 2008 homelessness count in Nashville yielded 2,227 people on the streets, in shelters, and in camps. Due to the intrinsic nature of a single point-in-time count, the total is likely a significant underestimate – without even taking into account those people that have been or will be homeless in their lifetime (Shinn & Tsemberis, 1998). Homelessness is also not just a problem for the stereotypical adult males in Nashville, as out of the 74,000 children in Nashville public schools, about 1,700 served each year are homeless (Alapo, 2007). Numerous studies remind us that homelessness is linked with economic issues far more than mental health or substance abuse, making jobs and housing major foci; with federal cuts significantly lowering section 8 vouchers, around 1,500 families in Nashville will be unable to afford the modest accommodations that were previously attainable (Paine, 2004). This abstraction of policy from its real consequences is not uncommon; government agencies often artificially separate poverty and homelessness – leading to myopic strategies to deal with homelessness (Shinn & Gillespie, 1994). In short, to prevent and ameliorate homelessness in Nashville, we must understand the scope, cost, and context of a constellation of issues. To this end, this study aims to shed light on the economic topography of homelessness in Nashville.

Based on Clasen's (2006) study of the hidden costs of homelessness in Durham, North Carolina and studies conducted across the United States, we have determined the extent of the externalized costs of homelessness in Nashville – for the people experiencing homelessness, the community, and the government. The purpose of this study is to determine the full costs of homelessness in Nashville using current practices, the estimated cost for permanent supported housing for people experiencing homelessness, the cost for housing first in Nashville, and the relative difference in expenditure for all options. This study has conducted semi-structured interviews with people experiencing homelessness, service providers, and outreach workers in Nashville. Archival data were also used to construct costs directly and to estimate unavailable figures. These data are then compared to information about permanent supportive housing and services that has been collected by various research groups and agencies to conduct a cost-efficiency analysis.






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