|"I can honestly say that it was not until I received my keys that I felt true happiness."
Recently, our partners at Miriam’s Kitchen, in conjunction with The Advisory Board Company, released a study which proves just how expensive chronic homelessness is in the District. This story illustrates the importance of Housing First, collaboration between housing and service providers, and the immense cost savings of ending chronic homelessness.
Due to the symptoms of his mental illness coupled with several untreated chronic health conditions, Ricky, found himself experiencing homelessness on the streets of Washington, DC. At age 51, he was already a heavy utilizer of the District’s emergency services.
Ricky’s vulnerability, unmanaged schizophrenia, and health challenges resulted in over 134 calls to Emergency Medical Services in a single year. He also had 4 reported hospitalizations and 12 usages of mental health crisis services in that same time period. Between 2013 and 2014, Ricky’s medical costs totaled $213,196 (not taking into account the costs of shelters, jails and other services Ricky may have also accessed). While these emergency services likely saved Ricky’s life, they also came at a considerable public cost.
This past February, in collaboration with our partners at Miriam’s Kitchen, we helped move Ricky off of the streets and into his own apartment. By giving Ricky a place to call his own, combined with access to comprehensive mental and physical health services, we have provided him with dignity, stability and support. And we’re doing it at a fraction of the cost of his experience with homelessness – approximately $22,500 each year for the housing and support services.
In January of this year, Ricky utilized Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) 19 times. He was housed on February 2nd, and then in all of February, he utilized FEMS just twice. While it’s only one month, this is a significant change and the savings are dramatic.
As Ricky begins to set goals for this next chapter in his life, he will do so with a roof over his head and the ongoing wraparound support of his Pathways DC team. Ricky’s story demonstrates that Housing First is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the most cost-efficient and effective way for us to end chronic homelessness.