Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Issue - The Cost of Homelessness

Highlights from our current issue of Spare Change:

~ Under Siege, U.S. Unions Seek International Support
In the face of globalization, the U.S. labor movement is striving to reinvent – and reinvigorate – itself by establishing closer ties with the world’s network of international unions.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the U.S.’s largest federation of unions, embraced a new level of internationalism last month in hosting a conference sponsored by the Council of Global Unions (GCU), a governing body composed of representatives from numerous international labor federations, including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 168 million workers in 153 countries.

~ Boston's Homeless Census - What's In A Number?
On the evening of December 18, 2007 more than 300 volunteers searched Boston’s streets to attempt a headcount of the city’s homeless. This was the Boston’s 19th census. The first was conducted in 1983 by six volunteers working over the course of two weeks. The census today is a point-in-time study, not meant to track how people move in and out of homelessness, or how many people are homeless throughout a given year in Boston.
As we mentioned in the last issue of Spare Change – where we gave perspectives on volunteering for the census both as a reporter following the Mayor’s group and as an “average volunteer” ( – volunteers were instructed not to search alleys, dumpsters or tucked away hiding spots; that alone indicates an undercount. However, the street count of adult individuals showed a significant decrease –184 people, down 40% from last year’s total of 306. We can hope that a decent part of that percentage is a real decrease and not an issue of methodology.

~ Housing first: Policy aims to reduce costs, improve quality of life for chronic homeless.
Housing the homeless is cheaper than paying for emergency services such as ambulance rides, emergency room visits and hospital stays, according to a recent Maine study that echoes the findings of other studies around the United States.
The study, released by the Maine State Housing Authority in October, shows that costs were reduced by about 50 percent for 99 formerly homeless, mentally ill people in the Portland, Me. area who now live in permanent supportive housing and receive regular care to manage ongoing physical and mental health problems.
The two-year study was modeled after studies done in larger metropolitan areas such as New York and Denver, tracking services used by a group of individuals before and after entering permanent supportive housing.
Melany Mondello, a coordinator of the Maine study, said that not all studies around the country showed cost savings overall. Instead, “cost neutrality” is often the result, she said, and taxpayers need to be aware that dollars spent are not necessarily reduced, but used more productively.
“It’s important for people to know that a small segment of the homeless population costs a lot,” Mondello said.
“The message we are trying to give is that housing programs help shift the burden away from expensive emergency care to preventive care and supportive services.”

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