The 10-Year Complete Solution to Homelessness
Over 550,000 people are homeless in the United States. Around 100,000 of them are what the Department of Housing and Urban Development deems "chronically homeless," which are people who have been homeless for a long time. They often have limiting disabilities or drug addictions. The government spends around $3 billion to care for them each year, and there are countless nonprofit organizations that also contribute to their health.
What if there was a plan to get the homeless taken care of, off the streets, and re-introduced into society in less than 12 years? There is, and not only would it save countless lives but it would save billions of tax-dollars.
Most cities have laws against lodging on the streets, but they are relaxed for the homeless population. The first step would be to start enforcing encroachment and illegal lodging ticketing. Often, the fine for an illegal lodging ticket is upwards of $1,000, which would be difficult for someone who is homeless to pay. Now, many who are ticketed are given the option to spend a few months in prison or to pay the fine. Their time in prison does nothing to help them, and they are simply released back onto the streets to fend for themselves when their time is up.
Rather than offering them prison, the government could offer them a rehabilitation program. After blood and behavioral tests, they would be either categorized into the "chronically homeless" category, or another.
For all of the non-chronically-homeless, first they would be given a drug test. If they fail the drug test, they would be placed in a rehabilitation facility (like those already utilized today). Once they are deemed ready to move forward, they would move into a shared-housing facility that would allow them safe, easy access to a local adult school. They would then be given a placement exam to figure their appropriate level of education. Every weekend, those enrolled in the homeless rehabilitation program would be taught business skills - how to interview, how to make a resume, etc.
This program would be comparable to the Foster Care program. Each person would be appointed a case-worker that would walk them through their education. It should not take more than 2.5 years to complete. The foster system currently cares for over 400,000 children and it does so with $5 Billion per year. To care for around 300,000 adults, the budget could be as low as $2 Billion per year.
Once the process is complete, their case worker would help them market their resumes to companies around the nation. Once they begin work and their own housing is secured, they would exit the program. Upon exit, they would pay back their loans from the past two years.
Those that were categorized as chronically homeless would have their issues identified and they would be sent to a city dedicated to their rehabilitation. Duane Nason, a software engineer and social activist in California, has proposed the next solution which would save the country a lot of money, and save the lives of those on the street with serious conditions.
His company, Citizens Again, outlines a city that would house all of the nation's chronic homeless. A city with a bed for every person, a hospital, rehabilitation, entertainment, and a school. Once there, citizens are free to leave, but with increased fines for illegal lodging and limited housing in each city, there would be no incentive to leave until they are ready.
The cost to build the city-for-the-homeless is $2.2 Billion. The cost to maintain the city, care for and feed all of the residents is estimated at $580 Million per year.
The program is not fool-proof, but it would be much better than the current program (or lack thereof) in the United States. Currently each year the US spends $93 Million on education programs for the homeless, and $2.7 Billion in housing aid. It would cost only $2.5 Billion, which would save the US government $500 Million per year, and Incarceration rates would go down as the homeless are cared for.