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Ambitious homelessness plan would ease social service budgets

People walk by a homeless man in San Francisco

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: The Obama administration will unveil an ambitious national plan today to end homelessness. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports the administration has borrowed ideas from successful local programs and stitched them together into a national approach, as Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Every night, more than 600,000 Americans sleep on the streets. It's a costly problem, with ripple effects on the budgets of police departments, social service agencies and hospitals.

Bon Ku is an emergency room doctor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He says the hospital spends millions every year on homeless patients who wind up in the emergency room.

Bon Ku: We saw 67 homeless persons accrue $4.8 million in one calendar year.

Some cities have taken an innovative approach called rapid re-housing. It's an effort to keep families from becoming homeless. Some just need the first month's rent and security deposit so they can move into an apartment.

Barbara Poppe worked as a homeless advocate for more than two decades in Columbus. Now she heads up the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which came up with the national plan. Poppe says Columbus tried the rapid re-housing approach after realizing how much it was spending on shelters.

Barbara Poppe: We had families staying in emergency shelter system at a cost that exceeded a luxury hotel on a daily basis.

Poppe says the national plan also calls for more public housing and establishes a website covering all federal services for the homeless.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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Investing in homeless services will undoubtedly lead to cost-savings. This is low-hanging fruit for hospitals and the government in reducing overall costs. Homeless persons routinely turn to expensive services such as Emergency Departments for non-emergent care.

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