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Homeless housing project saves LA County more than $200,000, study says

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, June 07, 2012, at 08:54AM
Skid Row Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Project 50 has saved LA County more than $200,000 from 2008 to 2010, according to a new report.

A homeless project aimed at finding permanent housing for the most in-need, perpetually homeless people has saved Los Angeles County $238,700 over the course of two years, according to a new study.

Project 50, an initiative headed by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, works to find DTLA homeless permanent housing and provide them with medical care and other necessary services. Although at the beginning of the program participants' substance abuse and mental health costs increased, the report attributes this to pre-existing problems that were never addressed.

"Yes, we spent more money on mental health care and substance abuse treatment for Project 50 participants—but we saved even larger amounts than we would have spent incarcerating them or caring for them in our clinics and emergency rooms if their conditions had gone untreated," a statement on Yaroslavsky's blog says.

Overall, each person housed by Project 50 saved the county $4,774 -- but the program is not without its issues. The Los Angeles Times reports that Project 50 was controversial because it did not demand that people get sober before they were housed. Some Downtowners were also resistant to the opening of an administrative and medical office building for the program on the corner of 5th and Main, a site they hoped would be used for a new development.

According to Yaroslavksy's blog, this most recent study provides "vindication" for the "housing-first" approach, which emphasizes the crucial role permanent housing plays in creating a stable life.

The county supervisor's site also states: "If we can meet people where they are—not where we wish they were, in terms of drug and alcohol abuse—we can make a profound difference, not just in their lives but in the county’s bottom line."

Project 50 was launched in October 2007, housed its first homeless participant in 2008 and it's 50th in 2009. Now Yaroslavsky and partner agencies have applied the same concept to homeless people living in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Van Nuys.


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