Housing First: Good news for the homeless this Christmas

In one US State, homelessness may be about to become history

Related Topics

Britain is set to be battered by high speed winds and heavy rain, South Africa has lost its champion of emancipation, and Nigella Lawson's failed fraud suit was an unfortunate 'disappointment' for the TV cook. Incredible as it sounds, though, it isn't doom and gloom for everyone on Planet Earth this Christmas. In fact, some of those who the festive season can be hardest on, homeless people, should be encouraged by a piece of wonderful news from the US.

Utah is on track to end homelessness by 2015. And it's all down to one ingenious premise put forward by ex-state Governer Jon Huntsman eight years ago. Ending homelessness, said the one-time Republican leader candidate, could be achieved by giving those on the street one simple thing: a house.

Thus the Housing First plan was born and in 2005 the first batch of Chronically homeless Utahans (yes, Utahans) were given apartments and full-time caseworkers. Alongside care from their assigned social worker, it was hoped each participant would become self-sufficient. But the beauty of the plan was that if the participant's attempt at financial independence failed, they were still able to keep their place to live.

The reasoning behind the scheme was, of course, based on projected state-saving  rather than outright benevolence. Utahan number crunchers calculated the annual cost of hospital and jail time for the average homeless person was costing the state $16,670, (£10,200) a year while an apartment and social worker would cost just $11,000. Jon Huntsman, ex-Governer of Utah Jon Huntsman, ex-Governer of Utah

The numbers as well as the social benefits have been making sense ever since. Utah saves around $5000 on each rough sleeper moved indoors, and eight years on the rate of state homelessness has dropped by a staggering 78 per cent. And thankfully the scheme doesn't just work in Utah. In Denver, Colorado - where a similar version of the programme has been put into effect - it was found prison incarceration costs for the housed homeless plunged by 76 per cent, while in-patient nights at hospitals were curbed by 80 per cent.

Now even more parts of America, including badly effected Wyoming, are considering copying the plan.  The north western state's homeless population has more than doubled in the last three years and yet fiscal restraint means only 26 per of those living on the streets are provided with shelter. Now, however, officials in Casper, Wyoming are planning to launch a programme modelled on the one pioneered by Utah.

Let's hope the good sense reaches the UK fast. An annual "state of the nation" report found homelessness in Britain was up by 6 per cent this year in England, and 13 per cent in London. If the Americans can find a way of saving money while helping those in need, can't we do the same?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?