Moving homeless families into permanent housing is significantly cheaper than putting them in emergency shelters, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study released yesterday.
In an analysis of four regions - Houston; Washington; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and upstate South Carolina - HUD found that family shelters were 74 percent to 243 percent more expensive to operate than permanent housing with supportive services.
"As people fall into homelessness, they don't have to languish in shelters," said Mark Johnston, deputy assistant HUD secretary. "That's a very expensive experience that can cost $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 a month."
The report was one of three HUD studies released yesterday that look at the cost of aiding individuals and families homeless for the first time.
The Obama administration has increased spending by $1.5 billion over three years to prevent homelessness. Of that, Philadelphia is receiving an extra $7 million a year for three years.
Katrina Roebuck, director of homeless prevention for the city's Office of Supportive Housing, said the money was being spent three ways:
Helping families or individuals avoid homelessness by giving them up to $2,500 for delinquent rent, utility bills, or moving costs.
Moving people out of shelters or longer-term transitional housing by providing up to $2,500 in assistance, as well as housing, legal, and credit-repair counseling.
Immediately diverting people who show up at the city's two homeless intake centers - the Appletree Family Center in Center City and the Ridge Avenue Shelter in North Philadelphia - by offering financial help.
The city is working with 10 nonprofit agencies to provide the services.
Phyllis Ryan Jackson, executive director of the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the HUD study reinforced the growing belief that shelters are not the most cost-efficient way to help people, and that homelessness must be "deinstitutionalized."