Housing-First, Services-Second Policy Lowers Cost Of Helping Homeless In Duval County

Jul 18, 2017

Someone sleeps in a doorway in downtown Jacksonville in January of 2017.
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT News

Homeless people have better outcomes if they're first given a home and then support services like job help. 

That's the conclusion advocates are drawing after a two-year pilot program called The Solution That Saves.  

Duval County, as well as two in South Florida, participated in the pilot. Jacksonville-based Nonprofit Ability Housing released preliminary results on Friday. 

Shannon Nazworth, Executive Director of Ability Housing, says she'll be sharing the results this week at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C. 

“Traditionally we always thought we had to put people in different programs and get them ready to move into housing,” she said. “But the data shows that’s not accurate. People do much better if at first you move them off the streets and into housing and then provide them the supports they need.”

Ability Housing is working with 58 clients in the pilot program. 

Nazworth said in the first year of the study, the housing-first approach cut costs from $4.9 million to nearly $2.5 million. 

Savings are associated with arrests (37 in 2016 versus 10 in 2017), jail time (1,386 days in 2016 versus 145 days in 2017), hospitalizations and emergency room visits (328 in 2016 versus 129 in 2017), nights in homeless shelters and meals provided in shelters. 

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.