Cost-Effectiveness of Housing First

Pathways to Housing PA
man opening a door in a hallway, black and white image

Did you know? It’s more expensive to let someone live unsheltered than it is to house them.

Yes, you read that right.  

When someone lives unsheltered, they become high utilizers of social services like mental health treatment, temporary shelters, and emergency rooms. They interact often with first responders like police, fire, and ambulance workers. They frequent food pantries and meal services and interact frequently with outreach workers.  

Those services cost money. A lot of money, when you add it all up. Much of that money comes from taxpayers. Like you!  

And our argument here isn’t that these services aren’t necessary. They are, very much so, necessary services for our entire community both housed and unhoused. However, hear us out: there’s a better, more cost-effective way to support the community of people experiencing homelessness within our community. It’s Housing First.  

When someone is housed through Housing First, it costs approximately $37,500 per year to house that person. Broken down into a daily rate, it’s about $102 per day. That doesn’t just cover housing; Housing First includes comprehensive wrap-around services to ensure that participants have everything they need to remain stable.  

That's significantly less than it would cost for that person to remain unsheltered. Ambulance calls alone are $940 to $1,277 per call on average, according to Forbes. If that person becomes incarcerated, the cost of prison averages $120 per day. Hospital stays cost an average of $2,825 per day in Pennsylvania. Inpatient rehab averages $400 or more per day, depending on the facility. And these figures don’t cover the outreach workers, clean-up crews, police, and other city workers that interact with or support people experiencing homelessness daily.  

Housing is a fundamental human right, and we firmly believe that everyone deserves a place to call home. A community thrives when all its members have access to safe housing. It only makes sense to invest in solutions that not only support our neighbors but benefit the entire community.

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