According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would cost $20 billion to end homelessness in the United States. That is a big number, yes, but let’s put it into perspective:

  • Americans spend $19 billion a year on unplugged appliances.
  • Americans spend more than $35 billion a year on gym memberships.
  • The U.S. government spent around $718 billion on its military in 2019 alone.

Ending homelessness is not only an achievable goal (and a moral obligation for many), but it’s also one that would likely save money in the long run. The government spends an average of $35,578 per year for every person who must endure chronic homelessness. Much of this money goes toward publicly funded crisis services, including jails, hospitalizations, and emergency departments.

Popular alternative solutions to end homelessness, such as permanent supportive housing, focus on helping people access permanent housing and coordinated services like mental health treatment and financial assistance. Permanent supportive housing costs $12,800 per person per year on average. But more on the solutions to end homelessness later.

How many people are experiencing homelessness in America?

At least 580,000 people experienced homelessness on a given day in January 2020. And for the fourth year in a row, America’s homeless population grew. The 2% increase in 2020 was actually less than the 3% uptick reported between 2018 and 2019, but many homelessness advocates argue that these numbers fail to account for the true scope of the homelessness crisis in the U.S.

Here’s what national and local experts have to say about some of the most common causes of homelessness:

  • Lack of affordable housing and insufficient incomes
  • Gaps in affordable healthcare and medical services
  • Racial injustice and discrimination
  • Domestic violence
  • Disasters

What are the solutions to end homelessness?

The answer to this question will depend on who you ask. For Renee Cavazos at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County in Texas, the answer is housing.

“Rather than use public and private funding on band-aid responses like hotel stays, we have remained committed to implementing long-term permanent housing solutions,” Renee said.

In 2020, the organization’s annual homeless count found that more than one in seven people experiencing unsheltered homelessness said they were unhoused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They cited job losses or reduced working hours as the precipitating event. Renee and her team think this rate would have been even higher without the coalition’s housing-focused COVID-19 response, which they called the Community COVID Housing Program. From October 2020 to the night before the count began in late January, the coalition placed 800 people into permanent housing with supportive services. Now, the Houston region’s homelessness response system is gaining recognition across the state for its effectiveness.

Read the full article about ending homelessness by  at GlobalGiving.