The Portland Police Department reported that in 2017 more the half the arrests they made were of homeless people, many arrested multiple times. The homeless are also frequent users of ambulance and hospital emergency-room services. The state of Utah estimated a homeless person costs taxpayers more than $20,000 a year. Colorado calculated its cost at $43,000.
Politically-conservative Utah has received a lot of positive press the past couple years for its surprisingly successful approach to their homeless population. In 2005, the state initiated its “Housing First.” The program targeted “chronically homeless” who numbered about 2,000, mostly in Salt Lake City. Although a relatively small part of its total homeless population of 14,000, the chronic cases absorbed 60% of the resources expended on the problem. The non-chronic, usually temporarily, homeless are mostly in shelters or couch surfing with friends and relatives. Assistance to them continued with transition services, helping stabilize families’ lives whether searching for employment or providing health care to children. Housing First made its priority people living on the streets, often mentally ill or debilitated by drugs and unlikely to be candidates for jobs any time soon.