February 5, 2014 | Vol.54 N.6

A simple solution to end homelessness?

It seems that homelessness has made its way to all sorts of places, even Lake Stevens for that matter. While we don't have a huge homeless population, and I mean those who are actually sleeping on street corners and park benches, we do have some people who do sleep in their cars and other places around town.

This problem is, of course, more prevalent in urban areas like Seattle and Bellevue.

In Snohomish County homelessness has increased 12 percent over the last year. The County has identified 1,312 people who consider themselves homeless with an additional 325 people who are currently "couch surfing."

It breaks my heart to hear the numbers and even more so to see those living on the streets or in tents. It is so cold right now that I can't imagine how these people cope on a daily basis.

It seems, however, that the state of Utah has found a way to end homelessness by 2015.

In an article published by NationSwell.com, it explains how Utah has performed this seemingly hopeless feat of reducing the homeless population by 74 percent since the year 2000.

"The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached. In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment," the article states.

When you see the answer in black and white it seems so obvious. The apartments aren't anything fancy but they get them off the streets and out of the hospitals and jails which saves taxpayers money. I love that the state is also assigning social workers to help those who want the help.

Of course it's an intricate process and those who use the apartments are asked to use 30 percent of the state-subsidized housing income toward rent. However, they now have a permanent home and not just a place to stay for a night here or there.

In a Huffington Post article dated Sept. 30, 2011 it reads, "Where many transitional housing programs offer state-subsidized residences for a fixed period of time, Utah's offer of lasting housing provides stability and safety for the chronically homeless. Nor is the housing contingent on a contract with the state to undergo rehabilitative programs or counseling - the state simply requires residents to be, 'good stewards of their personal and shared housing areas and maintain good relations with other tenants, case managers, and property managers.'"

Other states are now following suit and they too are seeing their homeless numbers drop.

I hope that Washington State can find a way to help our homeless and maybe looking at what Utah has done will help them find answers.

By eliminating homelessness we minimize crime, citizens feel safer, we save the state and taxpayers money and we empower those who are struggling. It's certainly a win-win for everyone.

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