The Jacksonville nonprofit Ability Housing says public housing for the homeless is a good way to use public resources.
Ability Housing provides homes for people who don't have them. Executive Director Shannon Nazworth says when people are living on the streets they’re costing the state more than when they’re housed, mainly in emergency room visits and prison stays.
“The community is already spending a lot of money, and unintentionally spending a lot of money in a way that doesn’t stabilize the individual,” Nazworth says.
But there’s no Florida-specific data to quantify the return on investment when someone gets a stable home, which is why Ability Housing is leading a statewide three-year pilot study called "The Solution that Saves."
The Florida Blue Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to the Jacksonville nonprofit this week to aid with that research.
“What we’re all hoping to see is the data that shows funding affordable housing is a really good, cost-effective way to use public resources as well as linking that housing with the appropriate support,” Nazworth says.
She also says when people have a permanent house, their lives change.
“Many of the times the individuals are self-medicating, and that’s what’s leading to their substance abuse issues," Nazworth says. “In addition, when you have a place to live, you have something to lose, so you want to stabilize your life.”
She she multiple state agencies are involved in the study, including the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
Nazworth says around 70 Ability Housing tenants have volunteered to be part of the study. Many of them live in Ability Housing's newest apartment complex, Village on Wiley, which houses 43 of Jacksonville's former homeless.