Republican State Gives Free Houses to Moochers, Cuts Homelessness by 74 Percent

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 20 2013 10:48 AM

Republican State Gives Free Houses to Moochers, Cuts Homelessness by 74 Percent

185957766
Huntsman helped the homeless.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images

Speaking of our coming congressional debates about food stamps and waste, I've been looking for a reason to share Kerry Drake's column about Utah's Housing First initiative. Eight years ago, under Gov. Jon Huntsman, Utah started an experiment in which chronically homeless people—first 17, then 2,000—were given apartments and full-time caseworkers. The goal: Instead of shrugging and cursing when the homeless showed up half-dead at emergency rooms, they'd try to get them into shelter and, hopefully, independent living. If that didn't work, they'd still keep the apartments. 

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Data from other cities made the bureaucrats' argument for them. From the 10-year Housing First plan:

A San Francisco study found that placing homeless people in permanent supportive housing reduced their emergency room visits by more than half. In 2006, the Denver Housing First Collaborative published a study of chronically homeless individuals, comparing the costs of services for two years before and after placement in permanent supportive housing. The group found a 34 percent reduction in ER costs and inpatient nights declined 80 percent.
Advertisement

Anyone who lives in or visits San Francisco might chortle at that, because it's easy to find the chronically homeless wandering around busy parts of the city. That's not the point. Utah gave their Housing First subjects housing, which cost money, in the hopes that they'd save money later. A kind of insurance plan. Utah's own calculations suggested that the state would pocket $5,000 a year by putting the homeless in apartments, instead of hoping they didn't end up in hospitals. 

It's a nice story, and all true. Something to remember when our conversation, in Washington, returns to the best ways to stop paying moochers so they'll learn to become dynamic capitalists.

Anyway, we could always just give them bitcoins.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?