In the past eight years, Utah, a Republican state, has reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. How? By giving people homes. In 2005, it figured out that it cost the state $16,670 per person to cover E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people. It would only cost $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. Utah started a Housing First program that gives, with no strings attached, a homeless person an apartment and a social worker to help him or her become self-sufficient. Even if the homeless person does not end up becoming self-sufficient, she or he gets to keep the apartment.
New Yorker writer Ian Frazier wrote a long story on homelessness in NYC and confirmed that the state spends around over three-thousand dollars a month to put a family in a shelter. Contrast Utah’s approach to other states’ which ban the feeding of homeless people in parks or order cops to arrest anyone sleeping in public; in those cases, the government is trying to “nudge” the homeless off the streets through coercive tactics. In the case of Utah, however, they aiming to elevate and not just shift behavior, to help them work towards self-sufficiency and not just remove them from the streets (read more about our distinction between shifting and elevating behavior) by treating the homeless as persons with potential and thus equipping them with necessary resources.