San Diego’s Project 25 – Helping the Homeless Whether They Like it or Not

Great article from http://homelessness.change.org. Very similar initiative to others taking hold across the nation

San Diego Will Help the Homeless, Whether They Like it or Not

San Diego has a new plan to end homelessness and save money at the same time, whether the city’s homeless like it or not.

The city is partnering with the United Way in Project 25, a program that aims to get 25 specific chronically homeless people off the streets. How are these people chosen? They are the folks with the most emergency room visits and the most police calls. The project comes out of a study suggesting that chronically homeless people translate to big cost to law enforcement and medical services. The study found that over a year and a half, $1.5 million in medical costs came from the needs of just 15 chronically homeless individuals in San Diego.

Project 25 will identify the 25 most “costly” homeless people, house them and provide them with services. Brian Maienschein of the United Way said of Project 25, “The homeless provider will work with them to bring them in, and to immediately not just improve their lives but reduce their cost to all of the taxpayers of San Diego County.”

Except nobody’s asking these 25 people about it. While many homeless people in San Diego would love to receive immediate housing and services, they get no say in the matter. It’s all about money. If you want assistance but aren’t racking up the police visits or medical costs, you’ll have to wait. And if those among the chosen 25 don’t want help, well, too bad for them.

One of the intentions of the program is to show that it’s more expensive to do nothing about homelessness than to end it. Excellent intention and a point well worth proving, but not like this. Condescending, government-knows-best approaches to ending chronic homelessness really aren’t needed. Couldn’t we show the expense of ignoring homelessness without trying to force specific people into a program?

And if you’re homeless in San Diego and don’t want to be, maybe you should start dropping by the ER more often.

Photo credit: Franco Folini

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