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Utah Is on Track to End Homelessness by 2015 With This One Simple Idea

Give them an apartment first, ask questions later.

Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 74 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015. How’d they do it?

The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached. In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.

MORE: How much food could be rescued if college dining halls saved their leftovers?

Other states are eager to emulate Utah’s results. Wyoming has seen its homeless population more than double in the past three years, and it only provides shelter for 26 percent of them, the lowest rate in the country. City officials in Casper, Wyoming, now plan to launch a pilot program using the methods of Utah’s Housing First program. There’s no telling how far the idea might go.

For NationSwell’s in-depth look at Housing First, click here.

AND: If you want to hire someone to help the homeless, why not the formerly homeless?

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Utah had reduced its rate of homelessness by 78 percent. It’s been reduced by 74 percent. 

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Jesse Roesler

Source: Wyofile

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Jenny Shank is a fiction writer and journalist in Boulder, Colo. Her first novel, “The Ringer,” won the High Plains Book Award. Her stories, essays, satire and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, McSweeney's and The Guardian.