A Canadian city called Medicine Hat has now eliminated homelessness by giving the homeless homes. Utah is doing this as well – every homeless person gets a home and access to a social worker and a case worker who will help them getting a job, be intergrated in society and get mental health care if they need some. At first, the home is free, and if they get a job they’ll pay 30% of their income for the house.
The result is that homelessness in Utah has decreased with 78% – and it turns out that they seem to have saved a lot of money: the annual cost for E.R. visits and jail stays for each homeless person is around $ 16,670, while the cost for a free home and a social worker for each homeless person was $11,000. Plus, they get a job quicker!
This model of housing first is being tried in more and more communities over the world, and several NGO:s have started to advocate for it due to its effectiveness. Here in Europe, we have more than twice as many empty homes than we have homeless people. That’s right, 11 million homes lie empty while 4 million homeless Europeans live on the street. That, my friends, is ridiculous.
Some seem to be very surprised that giving homes to homeless people actually defeats homelessness and creates a better society. Now, don’t get shocked, but scientists also suggest that if we give food to hungry people, we will defeat hunger. There is even a slight possibility – I may be wrong – that if we give clothes to naked people, they will be clothed!
The prophet Isaiah said:
share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, clothe them, and do not turn away from your own flesh and blood. (Is 58:7)
Something that will definitely not work when trying to defeat homelessness is to put spikes on the streets so homeless people can’t sleep there, or denying homeless people access to indoor places where they can sleep, or deporting homeless people so that they are homeless somewhere else. These are all non-solutions, because they are not adressing homelessness at all – they’re just forcing homeless people to be homeless somewhere else. Giving homes to homeless people, however, will end their homelessness. It’s all pure logic, really:
- A person without a home is homeless.
- X does not have a home.
- X is homeless.
Now, let’s try the Housing First idea:
- X is given a home.
- X is not homeless (from (1)).
Consequently, if a policy does not actually give homeless people a home, they will continue to be homeless. Mind blowing, isn’t it?
I myself have been protesting against how local authorities in my town have wanted to evict homeless people from a parking lot outside my former high school, where they sleep in cars. When being asked if it really was good that people slept in cars, I responded “Of course not! It’s horrible! I know a six-month-old baby who is freezing in a cold car at night. What I’m proposing is that we should give shelter to these people, not chase them around from parking lot to parking lot. To force them to move from the parking lot without giving them shelter is a non-solution.”
It’s simply really. Give the homeless a home, and they’re not homeless. Chase them around without giving them homes, and they will still be homeless.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebr 13:2)