Study shows helping South Bay homeless more expensive than providing housing

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- A new study out Tuesday shows Santa Clara County spends $520 million a year on the homeless, an amount that is apparently more than it would cost to pay for permanent housing for the region's homeless.

The keys to her very own apartment are a source of pride for Saline Chandler. The San Jose State student spent nearly 3 years homeless.

"There was nobody even to tell me where to go. So I slept outside and I got pneumonia," said Chandler.

She blames a system she says just doesn't work. And a new study unveiled Tuesday showed at what cost.

Over the last six years, Santa Clara County has spent more than $3 billion on homeless services, averaging out to about $520 million a year.

Still, it has the fifth highest rate of homelessness in the nation and the highest rate of unsheltered homeless.

"We're getting really terrible outcomes and we're spending over $500 million a year to get those," said Ben Spero, Board Chair of Destination Home which, along with Santa Clara County, commissioned the study.

The study found something else. For the 2,800 persistently homeless, the county spent an average of $83,000 a year per person on health care, social services and the justice system. If they put those people in housing, they would have saved roughly 70 percent of the cost.

"There are better solutions and there are economical solutions that work better. It pays to house people," said Daniel Flaming, President of Economic Roundtable, the organization that conducted the study.

"There's nothing left to debate. We already know that it's a moral issue, now we know it's a good financial case too," said Destination Home Executive Director Jennifer Loving.

Elected officials say there is a push to build more housing. Between Santa Clara County and the city of San Jose, there are several hundred new units slated to break ground next year.

"Our goal is to take as much of the $520 million a year that's currently being deployed or appropriated for homeless services, take as much of that as we can and redirect it to actual housing," said Supervisor Dave Cortese.

Saline Chandler agrees more housing is the answer, she just wishes the county reached this conclusion sooner.

"If you can pump millions of dollars into putting a Band-Aid on the issue, why has it taken this long for us to say hey the solution to homelessness is getting people housing?" she asked.