Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Community Connections, Spring 2003
of Housing the Mentally Ill
A new study reveals that housing the homeless and mentally ill costs only slightly more than leaving them to fend for themselves on the streets. The study, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and financed by the Fannie Mae Foundation, looked at 10,000 people living with mental illness and homelessness in New York.
Subjects were divided into two groups. Half were placed in government-funded housing with mental health assistance. The other half were left on their own. The half that were housed cost about $41,494 a year, while the un-housed ran up bills averaging $40,500 for their use of public services – such as emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, shelters and prisons.
The study’s lead author, Dennis P. Culhane, called his housing cost estimates conservative because they did not include the savings that come from fewer burdens on policy and court systems, nor the economic impact of homelessness on local businesses and tourism.
Nationwide, an estimated 110,000 chronically homeless people have mental illness.
“A considerable amount of public dollars are spent on maintaining people in a state of homelessness,” Culhane says.