Several community leaders have spent the best part of a year meeting early in the morning, strategizing, ideating, gathering information, crunching numbers and reviewing data. Countless hours have been poured into producing data on the cost of homelessness in Orange County. Why use all this time, energy, and resources on these activities?
Data matters, facts matter, information matters.
When it comes to homelessness, there are many myths that have been circulating for years: ’People come from all over the country to be homeless here…homeless people are all drug addicts, mentally ill and criminals…it’s not possible to end homelessness and why should I do anything? It’s someone else’s problem.’
This is where the OC Homeless Cost Study and Report comes in to play. Orange County United Way, Jamboree, and the University of California, Irvine, with the support of the Association of California Cities – Orange County (ACC-OC), 2-1-1 Orange County and the Hospital Association of Southern California created this collaborative study with an Advisory Committee representing a cross-section of local experts and practitioners from various institutions and organizations.
The reality is that money is being spent on homelessness right now – cities, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, health care agencies, non-profits, housing authorities and more– are all using resources to tackle the issue. These resources are sourced through a variety of ways: federal or state funding, other grants, private donations and taxpayer’s money.
Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, if you are a resident of Orange County and you pay taxes, your money is being used to address homelessness. Which begs the question, are these resources being used in the most effective way possible? What are the most cost efficient ways to address homelessness? What strategies bring the best return on investment?
The Executive Summary of the OC Homeless Cost Study and Report has just been released and shows that:
- During the 2014/15 fiscal year, approximately $299 million was spent on addressing homelessness here in Orange County.
- The vast majority of Orange County’s homeless, whether male or female, are U.S. citizens and long-term Orange County residents of over 10 years, rather than individuals who have recently chosen to come to Orange County.
- Homelessness is caused primarily by lack of sufficient income or job loss combined with high costs of housing in Orange County. Other factors, like family dysfunction, health and substance abuse, increase one’s vulnerability to homelessness in such a context.
- The costs of homelessness are driven upwards by the heaviest service users among those who are chronically street homeless. In order to be classified as chronically homeless, you have to have a disabling condition and have been on the streets for at least a year – these people are unwell and therefore the most likely to die on our streets.
- Whatever the service or housing category, the costs of homelessness declines when homeless individuals are housed. This holds true for those who are both the non-chronically and chronically homeless.
The full Cost Study will be released in May and will be instrumental in allowing our elected officials, business community, service providers and residents to have access to true facts on homelessness in Orange County and will allow for us to collectively route our efforts in the most strategic and cost efficient ways so we may truly work together to #endHomelessnessOC! Read the Executive Summary.