Homelessness continues to challenge our community. The problems that led to its growth and thus SEARCH’s creation in the 80’s reared its ugly head again with our recent economic downturn. More lost jobs, more people moving to Houston looking for work, more stress and strained relationships, and now even more families experiencing homelessness. And of course, today we’re facing cutbacks in human services, mental health care and education as the state struggles to get a balanced budget.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, more than 40,000 people experienced homelessness in our city last year. Fortunately, the majority of individuals and families who encounter a housing crisis can avoid or minimize its devastating impacts by obtaining temporary assistance from assistance programs. But for others, mental illness, addiction, and incarceration are all causes and even effects of homelessness. It can be a vicious cycle.
We can get overwhelmed by the magnitude and complexities of the problem, or even see it as someone else’s problem, but homelessness affects us all. First, none of us wants people camped out in front of our businesses or near our neighborhoods. And our tax dollars are paying upwards of $90,000 per year per person for someone who cycles in and out of emergency rooms, jails, and shelters because they aren’t in one place long enough to be fully treated for their health conditions or ever fully recover from addictions. If we aren’t intentional about ending homelessness, not only do we waste precious dollars, we lose out on the potential of people who want to work, but can’t get a second chance. We’re doing a disservice for our veterans who’ve served us. We pay dearly when a child is born into a situation that she’s likely to repeat because her mother is fighting for her own survival and can’t be the attentive parent that she wants or needs to be.
SEARCH is intentional about this problem and about getting results. We can engage an individual who’s been homeless with a chronic mental/physical disability and place him in an apartment with appropriate support so that he thrives and improves his health and productivity for less than $12,000 per year. But we don’t just stop there. We work to prevent the problem from continuing in the future by investing in the children. We are stopping the cycle of homelessness by preparing their children to be successful in school and in life. So, we’re working on both ends of the spectrum. And for every dollar we put in, we are saving taxpayers more than $6 today and tomorrow.
President & CEO