The State of Utah has an out-of-the-box strategy for dealing with the homeless: give them homes. Sounds crazy, or cliché, but it seems to be working. According to NBC News, in 2005, Utah’s chronically homeless count was 1,932. By April 2015, there were only 178 – a 91 percent drop statewide.
“We call it housing first, employment second,” said Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force.
Even Pendleton used to think trying to eradicate homelessness using such an approach was a foolish idea.
“I said: ‘You guys must be smoking something. This is totally unrealistic,'” Pendleton said.
“It’s a philosophical shift in how we go about it,” Pendleton said. “You put them in housing first … and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless.”
And it’s difficult to argue with the results. Chronically homeless persons, defined as those living on the streets for more than a year or for four times in three years, and have a debilitating condition, are 10 percent of the state’s homeless population but use up over 50 percent of the state’s homeless resources.
Homeless Citizens, as Pendleton prefers to call them, that are given apartments under the House First program pay the greater of 30 percent of their income or $50 as rent.