A simple program has allowed Utah to reduce its homeless rate by 74% since 2000. Housing First is a model that is adopted by many non-profit organizations which focuses on assisting homeless individuals and families obtain stable housing. Many states and organizations have adopted the policy, but few see as great a turnaround as Utah’s.

By Design: Keeping People Off the Streets

Utah’s program has provided 2000 residents with stable housing since 2005, and hopes to completely end homelessness as early as 2015. And yet experts are already calling it a success.

The program focuses on obtaining stable housing for the individual and then provides them with a caseworker who assists them in getting back on their feet and becoming self-sufficient. There are no strings attached though and if the person fails to become self sufficient, they still get to keep the apartment.

The program was born in 2005 when Utah calculated the cost of legal fees and medical care for its homeless population, and determined that hiring a case worker and providing an apartment for each individual experiencing, what they called, “chronic homelessness,” was vastly cheaper.

The idea is spreading, as Utah’s neighbor, Wyoming, is eager to emulate the same program. Wyofile reported that Wyoming has seen its homeless population increase by 213% since 2000.

Can San Francisco Implement the Same Program?

Homelessness is an issue that mainly plagues urban areas, with as much as 71% of the nation’s homeless population being concentrated in cities. Back at home in California, counts of homeless individuals seem to fluctuate mildly from year to year, but statistics show the populations are generally stagnant.

In San Francisco, 59% of the homeless population is completely unsheltered, a number that mirrors the national whole. The 2013 San Francisco Homeless Count and Survey says that for much of the city’s homeless population, the “experience of homelessness is part of a long and recurring history of residential instability.”

The survey showed that the primary cause of homelessness within San Francisco was due to the loss of employment. On the bright side, the survey showed that the unemployment rate in San Francisco has decreased from 9.5% in 2011, to 6.5% in 2013.

What better time to have new ideas to help the homelessness once and for all?

ICYMI – Check out this video our Reset San Francisco team created in 2011 when a vital service for San Francisco’s homeless, Care Not Cash, was under threat.