Charlottesville will pay $1.55 million to purchase the land known as the Fourth Street Station, located at 401 Fourth St. N.W., for the city’s first single-room occupancy facility, a type of transitional housing for the homeless and working poor.
And it might be a pretty good idea. The following is from a story by Malcolm Gladwell that describes what seems to me as a similar situation to the Charlottesville story.
The recruitment strategy was as simple as the one that Mangano had laid out in St. Louis: Would you like a free apartment? The enrollees got either an efficiency at the Y.M.C.A. or an apartment rented for them in a building somewhere else in the city, provided they agreed to work within the rules of the program. In the basement of the Y, where the racquetball courts used to be, the coalition built a command center, staffed with ten caseworkers. Five days a week, between eight-thirty and ten in the morning, the caseworkers meet and painstakingly review the status of everyone in the program. On the wall around the conference table are several large white boards, with lists of doctor’s appointments and court dates and medication schedules. “We need a staffing ratio of one to ten to make it work,” Post said. “You go out there and you find people and assess how ‘re doing in their residence. Sometimes we’re in contact with someone every day. Ideally, we want to be in contact every couple of days. We’ve got about fifteen people we’re really worried about now.”
The cost of services comes to about ten thousand dollars per homeless client per year. An efficiency apartment in Denver averages $376 a month, or just over forty-five hundred a year, which means that you can house and care for a chronically homeless person for at most fifteen thousand dollars, or about a third of what he or she would cost on the street. The idea is that once the people in the program get stabilized they will find jobs, and start to pick up more and more of their own rent, which would bring someone’s annual cost to the program closer to six thousand dollars. As of today, seventy-five supportive housing slots have already been added, and the city’s homeless plan calls for eight hundred more over the next ten years.
The reality, of course, is hardly that neat and tidy. The idea that the very sickest and most troubled of the homeless can be stabilized and eventually employed is only a hope.
I wonder how much is being spent now in the City on services related to caring for the homeless and whether there are parallels to the Gladwell story.