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Homeless Cost Study

Sponsor: Washington County, Kaiser Permanente

Facilitating Sponsor: City of Beaverton, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Providence Health & Services

Initiating Sponsor: United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, Pacific University, Tualatin Hills Parks & Recreation District

There is a movement across the country, initiated by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness under the leadership of former Executive Director Philip Mangano, to end chronic homelessness. Communities across the country have taken a close look at how they spend their public and private dollars on homeless individuals, moving away from investments in homeless management and crisis intervention to investments in proven strategies to end chronic homelessness, in particular Housing First (permanent housing and supportive services).

Washington County’s 10-year Plan to End Homelessness focuses heavily on Housing First interventions, as well as prevention and systems alignment. While there has been a 65% increase in Housing First resources and funding since 2007, greater public and political will is required to address the funding gap associated with achieving 10-Year Plan Housing First outcomes.

Philip Mangano’s visit to Washington County in January 2012, with his focus on the economics of homelessness, has sparked the interest of many policymakers in our county. Mangano talked about the importance of viewing chronic homelessness through a financial lens, as opposed to the social service lens that we typically view the issue through. He encouraged us to start to build the political will by conducting a simple cost analysis of what we are currently spending to "keep people homeless" in Washington County. (CLICK HERE for Mr. Mangano’s presentation at the WEA Breakfast )

Vision Action Network and the Washington County Department of Housing Services co-convened an Advisory Committee to direct the design and implementation of such a cost study to measure the financial impact of homelessness on the various systems in Washington County. The purpose of this study is to understand the amount of money various systems (hospitals, law enforcement, EMS, shelters, corrections, etc.) are currently spending on services that do not end homelessness permanently. It is assumed that identifying the major cost-drivers of this group and determining where resources are allocated will assist our community in effectively tailoring services for the chronically homeless and ultimately reducing the costs associated with their care. To view the study – click here

We found that emergency and crisis services for the chronically homeless are costly, and for some, very costly. Studies in other locales suggest that providing permanent supportive housing (housing and support services) costs communities less than the cost of providing emergency services. VAN and Washington County Department of Housing Services will continue to work with the Advisory Committee and Portland State University’s Northwest Economic Research Center to conduct Phase 2 of the study. Phase 2 will compare the costs found in Phase 1 with participants’ costs after they were in permanent supportive housing. We assume this information will help local communities develop more effective policies and practices geared toward the elimination of homelessness.

Advisory Committee Members include:

Janice Burger, Providence Health and Services
Dick Stenson
, Tuality Healthcare
Sheriff Pat Garrett
, Washington County
Mayor Denny Doyle
, City of Beaverton
Renee Bruce
, Community Action Executive Director
David Pump
, Sequoia Mental Health Inc Executive Director
Mike Balter
, Boys And Girls Aid Executive Director
Ramsay Weit
, Community Housing Fund Executive Director
Dennis Mulvihill
, Washington County Government Relations Manager
Mary White
, Social Services Director, Kaiser Permanente
Zeke Smith
, Chief Impact Officer, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette
Val Valfre
, Washington County Housing Authority Executive Director
Jonathan Schlueter
, Westside Economic Alliance Executive Director (former member)
Pat Reser
, Resers Fine Foods Board Chair (former member)

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