Last year, more than 564,000 people were homeless in the United States.
It's no small issue to combat, but some cities are accepting the challenge by employing the housing first concept. The idea is to get people into permanent housing before dealing with other problems, such as mental illness and substance abuse.
According to The Washington Post, the method helps people with stability and saves participating cities money — paying for preventative medical care is way cheaper than repeated emergency room visits.
Arlington, Virginia, has been making huge strides to end homelessness. Since 2013, the community's homelessness rate has dropped by 64 percent. It's also become the second city in the U.S. to end veteran homelessness. Both of these successes are thanks to a housing-first approach.
For many years, the misconception was that people had to be ready and accepting of the big change — a move into permanent housing.
Kathy Sibert, president and CEO of nonprofit A-SPAN, told ARL now, "What you want to do is get people into housing and stabilized."
Arlington's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was launched back in 2008. The goal was to make sure that no single person or family went without proper, and most importantly, affordable housing.
In 2015, the Homeless Services Center opened. The building holds everything under one roof, from finding housing to obtaining medical treatment, receiving employment training, and getting meals.
Sibert told ARL now that she’s heard only positive reviews from community members and business leaders. Apparently, since the center has opened, they've seen fewer people on the streets.
Other cities have been using the revolutionary approach as well. Honolulu, which has the highest per capita homeless rate in the country, employs a housing-first method to house their residents fast.
But some residents want to take it a step further. ER doctor and Hawaii State Sen. Josh Green has proposed classifying homelessness as an illness. The reason is that doctors can "prescribe" housing, which would then allow the use of Medicaid as well as other public assistance funds to subsidize housing.
What's more, back in April, Bergen County, New Jersey, confirmed that they are the first community in the U.S. to end chronic homelessness. At a press conference, Housing and Urban Development officials stated that the credit for Bergen County’s success rested in the $11 million "one-stop shop" facility where homeless residents could receive on-site treatment and housing assistance.
Bergen County executive James Tedesco stated, "By securing safe, permanent housing for individuals who were chronically homeless, we're providing these most vulnerable residents with the stability they need to address other challenges that have limited their ability to prosper in our community."
Hopefully, more cities and towns will catch on to the success of housing-first programs. No one deserves to live on the streets.