Study: Homeless Shelter Stay Can Cost More than Rent


A study of 9,000 families and individuals released this week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development finds that costs to house the newly homeless vary widely, depending on the type of shelter and social services provided by the six cities in the report, says USA TODAY.

Nationwide, 1.6 million homeless people received shelter in 2008, according to government figures.  Emergency shelter for families was the most costly:

  • In Washington, D.C., the average bill for a month in an emergency shelter ranges from $2,500 to $3,700.
  • In Houston, the average is $1,391.
  • Services such as drug and alcohol treatment, mental health care, family counseling and help obtaining government benefits cause costs to vary.

Many communities probably don't know that they are spending as much "to maintain a cot in a gymnasium with 100 other cots" as it would cost to rent an efficiency apartment, says Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies housing policies.  "We are paying for a form of housing that is largely substandard, and we are paying as much, if not more, than standard conventional housing."

Mark Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says the report should prompt communities to lower costs by targeting people with only the services they need and to improve aid for those who repeatedly become homeless.

Source: Marisol Bello, "Study:  Homeless shelters stay can cost more than rent," USA Today, March 25, 2010.

For article text:

For study text:

For more on Social Issues:


Popular Video