NEXT TIME you rush pass that scruffy-looking guy lying on the sidewalk grate and surrounded by blankets and trash, consider this: He's worth a lot of money - $35,000 to $150,000 by some estimates.
That's what the federal Interagency Council on the Homelessness says it costs to care for the chronic homeless, those who bounce from service agencies, to hospital emergency rooms, to substance-abuse programs, through the law-enforcement and court systems, and back again.
For the past decade, those at the forefront of helping the homeless have emphasized shelters and mental-health services. But this policy direction has been a costly failure. Studies show the obvious: What the homeless need are, well, homes.
That's why we applaud Mayor Nutter's plan for the city to give homeless families and individuals what they need: homes and apartments, 500 in all. It'll also create 125 transitional-housing opportunities for the chronic homeless, with more units in 2010-12. This sets the city on a path that will show results for everyone: the homeless, the city, and the taxpayer.