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getting the best return on your investment…

May 6, 2015

So, I was recently forwarded yet another study that reveals that it would be much – MUCH – cheaper to house the homeless, than it currently costs governments to leave people on the streets. That, in fact, it is three times more expensive to do what we currently do, than it would cost to actually house people. It reduces the cost of policing, health care, service providers, insurance claims, improves business, and dramatically lightens a litany of other costs related to the “homeless issue”.

And there have been many times over the years that I have tried to engage business titans and politicians with the facts of these cost benefits – for similar studies have been barking at the moon since at least the 1980’s.

But what is ironic is that despite the fact that businessmen, businesswomen, and most politicians constantly go on and on about reducing the cost of government, about creating better business environments, about reducing health care costs and policing costs etc. etc. … they almost always draw a blank stare at the notion – even when I put the cold hard numbers and business models straight in their face – that it would be cheaper to house the homeless than it is to leave people to fend for themselves on the streets.

There is no power point presentation that I can give, no government study, no United Nation research, no European best practice model that I can present that does not elicit the glazed over “this is never going to happen here” response from politicians.

When I was young and naive I thought this was due simply to social ignorance – and that once they saw the numbers and realized how much money they could save – and being the prudent profit-driven types of people these people inevitably are – that once I showed them, they would see the light, and we would actually begin to move forward in dealing with this national crisis.

But they resisted. Even when presented with the numbers. Often, when given the facts and figures, they resisted even more.

It took me a while to realize that its not about how much money society could save. If human psychology were that simple we would have already solved a myriad of social ills.

There is a deep-seated – taboo – need for society to be able to visibly identify the bottom of the social pecking order. There is also a deeply misunderstood notion of meritocracy at play as well – the old, “well, if you are homeless, you probably deserve it” dialogue going on as many people pass a panhandler on the street (if they think about it at all).

Class hierarchies – and the need to be self-situated higher up that ladder – are deeply entrenched human conditions.

From the earliest days of my daughter’s daycare did I watch the multitude of tiny struggles that occurred for position, approval, and social power.

It is only a minority of people in our society that can be swayed by such arguments as cost benefits and statistical analysis when it comes to dealing with the homeless issue in a truly functional way.

For the rest of us, there is something much darker going on.

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