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A new study by Linn County and Willis Dady Homeless Services takes a look at the cost of homelessness locally. While Linn County has been tracking the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness for years, this is the first study that looks directly at the costs of persistent homelessness locally.
This project explores the financial costs associated with persistent homelessness by studying the lives of eight individuals in Linn County. Researchers worked with participants who had primarily lived in Linn County from July 2013 to June 2018, and who experienced a minimum of one year of homelessness during that period.
The study looks at three major systems involved in helping people experiencing homelessness – medical, legal, and housing services. The study finds that for some individuals the costs of being homeless can be extraordinarily expensive. However, with appropriate housing interventions, these costs can dramatically decrease.
In total, for all eight participants during the study’s timeframe, it cost the local community over $1,200,000 to provide services for individuals while they were experiencing homelessness. This amounts to an average of $5,017 per person per month. However, when these individuals were stably housed the costs associated with their service utilization only averaged to $263 per person per month. This is a decrease of an average of $4,754 per person per month. When participants’ housing situations improved to stable housing, not only did the average cost per month drop, but the average cost per interaction within three major systems – medical, legal, and housing – dropped as well.
With only eight participants in this cost study, the results cannot draw broad conclusions concerning the costs of homelessness for Linn County as a whole. However, the participants’ information reveals patterns that should be explored and help inform the community’s strategies to reduce and eliminate homelessness.
Read the full report (PDF) to learn more about the cost of homelessness in Linn County.
A 6-page summary report (PDF) is also available.