Traditionally, homeless services have taken paternalistic approaches. Much like a rewards system, services were provided to individuals as incentives overtime. However, a recent neoliberal approach has garnered support from practitioners, policymakers, and academics alike.
When providing individuals suffering from homelessness with housing, counseling, and greater autonomy, outcomes have gradually improved. At first, programs have typically honed in on those suffering from chronic homelessness. When scaling up these services over time, improved outcomes have followed. A recent small-study in Washington, D.C., identified an 84% retention rate of those involved in the program (out of 36 participants). From a policy standpoint, this approach may also be far more cost effective than current measures focused on combatting homelessness. Politicians in Utah have quoted spending $12,000 per person on these inclusive housing programs, as opposed to approximately $20,000 per person annually.
To the uninitiated, this may sound strange. Not because it doesn’t make sense. But because it’s so simple that to call it innovation would seem an insult to the likes of Thomas Edison. To think that, however, would underestimate how utterly radical Tsemberis’s proposition — give homes to addicts and drunks and schizophrenics without preconditions — once seemed. And still kind of does.