New homeless initiative in San Diego saves lives, and money
Published - 06/14/15 - 07:05 AM | 4687 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recent transition of 36 area homeless people into permanent housing resulted in a 67 percent reduction in public resource costs, equaling $3.5 million of taxpayer and other social service dollars saved over the course of a 24-month period.

These are the final outcomes for Project 25, United Way’s initiative to permanently house at least 25 of San Diego County’s chronically homeless, high-frequency users of public resources.

“The results are impressive,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist for the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University. The institute produced an independent report on the outcomes of Project 25, which uses the “Housing First” model to house participants in permanent homes and provide supportive services to keep them housed.

“We started this pilot project in 2011 to determine whether permanent supportive housing works in San Diego – and now we know the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’” said Kevin Crawford, president and CEO, United Way of San Diego County. “Using a ‘Collective Impact’ approach to bring all the necessary agencies and resources together, we have found that it costs more to do nothing – both in quality of life and taxpayer dollars.

“Providing chronically homeless and frequent users of public resources with stable and secure housing, combined with a comprehensive set of health and social services, can yield a dramatic reduction in the use and expense of various public services,” Reaser concluded.

Conceived and funded by United Way with $1.5 million over three years, Project 25 is a historic public-private partnership between the County of San Diego, City of San Diego/San Diego Housing Commission and United Way. Father Joe’s Villages, San Diego’s largest homeless service provider, managed the pilot and will continue to oversee the program.

"I am tremendously proud of the trail Father Joe’s blazed with our work on Project 25, critical to assess how San Diego can best help the most needy among our chronically homeless population,” said Jim Vargas, president and CEO, of Father Joe’s Villages. “With the help of public and private funding and the continued support of the housing commission, we are expanding the program and continuing our work to tailor solutions to the individuals who come to us at a critical turning point in their lives.”

United Way provided $100,000 of additional funding in the program’s fourth year to help boost fundraising.

The report, “Project 25: Helping the Most Frequent Users of Public Services,” analyzed 28 individuals enrolled in the program and housed in the first year. The individuals ranged in age from 22 to 61, with a median age of 47. Five were military veterans. The individuals studied had some form of mental illness, a serious physical disability and/or a diagnosable substance abuse disorder. Many had all three.

As a result of Project 25, the median expense per user decreased from nearly $111,000 in 2010 to less than $12,000 in 2013.

Today, 33 participants remain housed in their own apartments (three passed away of natural causes during the program), have health insurance and receive preventative health care through a community clinic versus regularly accessing emergency care.

The data collected for Project 25 were made possible through partnership with organizations countywide, including Alpha Project, Alvarado Hospital, Alvarado Parkway Institute, American Medical Response, Catholic Charities, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Kaiser Foundation Hospital, Palomar Health, Paradise Valley Hospital, Promise Hospital, Rural Metro Corporation, Salvation Army, San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, San Diego Housing Commission, San Diego Police Department, San Diego Rescue Mission, Scripps Health, Sharp HealthCare, Tri-City Medical Center, UCSD Medical Center, VA Medical Center and Veterans Village of San Diego.

To read the full report, visit
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