May 11, 2011; Source: The Salt Lake Tribune | Despite the economy and despite the fact that the number of homeless people in the state overall has increased, Utah is reporting consistently fewer chronically homeless people and is attributing that drop to its Housing First Initiative, which provides housing units in supportive communities. Much more can be read about the program as it has been implemented in a number of different states.
The numbers speak volumes: In 2006, 13,362 people were homeless statewide and 1,914 were chronically homeless. By 2010, the number of people who experienced homelessness for some or part of the year had grown to 15,642, most of whom were re-housed within a short time. The number of people considered chronically homeless, however, had shrunk to just 812.
Studies of the Housing First Initiative indicate that it is a cost effective program that saves money in expenditures like emergency, police and health care costs. But the savings are only actualized if the numbers of chronically homeless are really decreased, so this is, indeed, good news.—Ruth McCambridge