All individuals have the right to a safe and stable home. The concern is how to house the 600,000 people who don’t have a place to sleep on any given night or the 100,000 chronically homeless individuals throughout the United States. The answer is simple: Provide permanent supportive housing to end homelessness.
In Santa Barbara County, more than 6,300 people are experiencing homelessness, and on any given night over 4,000 people are homeless. Although homelessness is mainly caused by a lack of affordable housing, it’s often paired with mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, trauma, and other complex issues. In order to help people get back on their feet, however, they first need a home. The permanent supportive housing model pairs housing with services such as therapy, health services, and job-training programs. Giving an individual a secure and comfortable place to call home, and then addressing his or her specific needs, is an effective way to end homelessness. This model is also cost-effective.
A study conducted in Santa Barbara County found that it costs an estimated $86 per day to house an individual in jail, $800 to house a person in a private health-care facility, and $1,600 to house a person at a hospital, but it only costs $28 per day to house a person in permanent supportive housing. So why isn’t this model being implemented at a sensible rate? It’s not just a moral issue, it is a financial issue because it saves taxpayers money. Therefore, it is evident that this model produces a winning situation.
There may a lack of will and/or a lack of understanding, but as a country we need to ensure that people have a home. Today in Santa Barbara County there are various affordable housing facilities but only two facilities of permanent supportive housing. El Carrillo Studios was funded by a local nonprofit organization and provides 61 single units of permanent supportive housing, and the MHA Garden Street Apartments was funded through the Mental Health Services Act Housing Program in collaboration with local organizations and provides 51 units of permanent supportive housing. This is a good start; however, it only addresses the needs of an extremely small percentage of the entire county’s homeless population.
We need to advocate to make this a top priority, because housing is a basic human right. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet we chose not to house and feed the people living in extreme poverty. We need to tell the government and our elected officials that they need to invest in affordable housing for the entire homeless population, not only the veterans or people suffering from mental illness.
There must be a greater investment in the people. Once this happens, there will be profound positive impacts. For example, people with housing can then access health-care services, find employment, and further their education.
In order to make permanent supportive housing a reality, we need everyone to speak up and advocate for additional funding. Even having a conversation can spark a large discussion. In addition, the more people write letters or op-ed articles, and the more people attend city hall meetings or engage with the community, the better. For example, in Santa Barbara County, it may be useful to address the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors or the elected officials at the state and national level.
We know the solution to ending homelessness, yet we currently chose not to take those steps. We can change this. You can be a leader, and you can make your voice heard. Please tell your elected official to invest in permanent supportive housing and end homelessness.