It's An Extreme (But Effective) Way To Get Rid Of Homelessness

Matt Orr Curator:
Fact check badge


…They’re a thing. We love them. We also know they’re hard to come by on the Internet. That’s why we have a team of fact-checkers double-checking everything we post, with standards that meet or exceed anyone else on the web. So go ahead and share your favorite thing from Upworthy with the full confidence that it's on the level — and that you’ll look really smart doing it. Not that you need any help with that, of course.

If we discover that something less-than-facty slipped through the cracks, we’ll always be up front with you. Check our corrections page for more information.

Let's set this stage: In walks Utah, a state chock-full of natural beauty, conservative values, and a pretty big homeless population. So how does Utah address the issue of homelessness? All I can say is, it's pretty amazing when folks turn to the facts and have the common human decency to solve a big problem that's usually icky and partisan.

Show Transcript Hide Transcript

Female: Utah is a very conservative State, but recently they decided to deal with their issue of homelessness by giving homeless people homes for free.

Male: Wow.

Female:And there are no strings attached whatsoever. So, this program actually started back in 2005. Let me give you the details. Since 2005, Utah has reduced homelessness by 78% and it's on track to end it completely by 2015. So, what they do is, they basically offer extremely affordable housing for homeless people. So, it starts off as free and they also provide a social worker and a case worker to help them transition into society and what I mean by that is, they'll help them get a job, they'll help them get any type of mental health care that they need because a lot of people that are out on the streets, of course, need mental health care.

Some of the women that are homeless left their husbands because they've been battered by them, so having a social worker is a key element of this. However, if they are unable to find work or, you know, make that transition, they can stay in that housing for free for as long as they want and it's actually a cost-effective way of doing it. By the way, if they do earn an income, they would pay 30% of their income for the housing, okay?

Male: Okay, yeah.

Female: So, the annual cost of E.R. and jail stays for each homeless person is $16,670 a year.

Male: Wow.

Female: They found out that if you provide them housing, it's actually much cheaper. The annual cost of providing an apartment and social worker for each homeless person is $11,000 a year. So, they're like, "You know what? Why don't we provide shelter for them? They're gonna feel more independent, they're gonna feel like they can go out there and find work and be productive members of society. We're gonna save money doing it and we're gonna get people off the streets."

Male: Yeah, and it's a quality of life issue improvement for everybody now.

Female: Exactly.

Male: Yeah, I mean, it's a win win win and also, if it doesn't work, if it dis-incentivizes them from working and they're just like, "Well, why would I get a job and pay 30%? I can just take this free housing." But yeah, first of all, who cares? That's not gonna happen much. Most people will try to make their lives better, right?
Male: Yeah.

Male: And secondly, like, if it doesn't work, God bless them for trying. Like, that's the key. That's what we're supposed to do...

Female: Yes.

Female: They've come up with something that might work...

Female: Yes!

Female: And if that doesn't work, then try something else but maybe, eventually you'll find something that works, and there'll be many fewer homeless people and you've gotten these families and these people back on their feet again, like it's just... And they'll eventually make money, and then they'll [inaudible 00:02:26]. And because Jimmy said, the economy's driven not by the half of one percent, it's driven by us, it's driven by the people who decide to buy things or want things, then they'll go buy something. They'll go to Target, they'll go to Walmart they'll shop.

Female: You know, you really got to give Utah credit here.

Male: No kidding.

Male: It's obviously a very conservative State.


Male:No kidding.

Male:This didn't come out of a liberal place, this came out of a conservative place, so bless their hearts. I know they're concerned about the money. Good! You should be concerned about spending taxpayer money, right? And they want to make sure that it's a good environment for everybody to live in. They don't want homeless people around but they did the decent moral thing and they're, like Ben said, they tried an experiment that is like, the most decent experiment I've ever seen.

Male: Yeah.

Male: Even if it fails, it's a success in that they've tried something different but right now it's succeeding.

Female: So, let me jump in. It's already been a success.


Female: I mean, they started it in 2005 and the concept originated in 2004. They started actually using it in 2005, and now, nearly 10 years later, it turns out that they've completely solved the homeless issue and you know, one of the issues that Jake had brought up earlier was, well, what happens to property values, right? Because what happens is, they look for existing rental units to put these homeless people in. They refurbish old buildings and they also build new units to house the homeless people. What they found was, property values did not go down. In fact, property values in Utah have been steadily going up. So, that's good news.

Male: And people are working to refurbish these buildings, and they're building new buildings, and the new construction and...

Male: Right.

Male:Those guys are working on that.

Male: Yeah, and plus there's more money in the government coffers because they're saving money by treating the homeless people this way, instead of paying for their emergency rooms and their jailing.

Female: Exactly.

Male: You know, honestly, if you told me this proposal before they tried it, I'd be like...

Male:No kidding, me too.

Male: Yeah.

Male: I'd have been like, come on...

Male: I know!

Male: I would have been like, wait, wait, wait, then what about that poor guy living down the street who's gotta pay money? I feel like that's unfair to him, right? And I don't know, I'm too, I, I literally would have been too conservative for this proposal and I would have expected that it would have been San Francisco or Massachusetts or somebody that would have tried this. I, it's just...

Male: Well, you know why, this is what I'm gonna make up. It's because they're Mormons. I mean, for all the shit that we regularly do, these are people that look out for their neighbors more than almost any other religion and they do it consistently. It's why Elizabeth Smart's father brought that crazy guy on because he's homeless. He was willing to give this guy some work...

Male: Yes, I know...

Male: And I'm gonna help him out...

Male: Yeah...

Male: It was a kind thing that he did and you know, if my mom told me growing up, my mom was a Mormon and left the church 'cause she thought it was nuts, but she was like, these people, man, they help, they look out for their neighbors like nobody's business and that's, I mean, you know. Mormons dominate the Utah legislature, and I guarantee you that that was at play here. Like, a legitimate thought of, "Look, we're conservative with our money, but this doesn't make any sense. How do we help these people out? What makes sense and get the problem solved."

Male: So is there any chance, you think, of this spreading?

Female: Yes. So there are other, not entire States, but municipalities, that are considering it. know that San Francisco has done some version of this and obviously they have a huge problem with people on the streets, like, living on the streets. So, we'll see how it pans out for San Francisco, but they've also done it in Denver, it's been successful in Denver...

Male: So, when are they gonna do it in Santa Monica, right?

Male: So...

Male:That seems like the most liberal place around...

Female: Yeah.

Male: And the place with the most homeless people.

Female: I'm hoping that they do do it in Santa Monica, but another way of contrasting this is criminalizing homeless people, which Tampa....

Male: Yes.

Female:Tampa, Florida attempted to do, right? And it's actually costing them more money because if you're gonna criminalize them, you're gonna throw them in jail and then we spend a ton of money keeping them there.

Male: Yes.

Female: So, this makes way more sense.

Male: And, and but, you know, I, it seems like mental illness is a big problem.

Female: Yes.

Male: So, how do they deal with that?

Female: Well, they provide, like, a social worker...

Male Speaker: Oh!

Female: And the care that they need. And I should also note, so the State is spearheading this, but they also have ten different leaders from different parts, different regions in Utah customizing the plan to suit their needs, right? So, I think that that's great too because it allows, like, particular cities to make decisions.

Male: Handle it the way that they see fit.

Female: Exactly.

Male: Yeah, that's...

Male: One of the reasons that it might be working is that oftentimes when you wanna get homeless people into shelters, they think the shelters are dangerous places. They're worried that people are gonna steal their stuff.

Male: Yeah.

Male: And so they're hesitant to go into the shelters but here they have apartments, so it's a lot less dangerous, right? And so that's one reason that it might be working. And so, I mean, look...

Male: So you're for it now, Cenk?

Male: Well, you know, absolutely is the answer and ideologically, I, I, it doesn't fit my ideology, okay? I'm more competitive and I think that it's, I think that things work on incentives. If you're giving people an incentive to, a disincentive to work, to get their own place, etc., then it's not the right strategy but the one thing I'm open to is this thing called "facts" right? And so when I see facts and when I see that I was, my initial thoughts on it were wrong, and that this has worked, yeah! I'd wanna try to duplicate that and see if it works in other places.

If it does, great. And look, they say, well, you know, they're gonna eradicate homelessness. And you know, when you hear stuff like that, it's always followed by 2050, 2075, 2085, right? But like, by 2015. That's next year, okay? When something's worked that well, yeah, I wanna try it more!

There may be small errors in this transcript.

The Young Turks have been bringing approachable news to the Internet for years, so thanks y'all for this video. Check out their site and follow them on Facebook/Twitter. Thumbnail image by Rain Rannu, used under Creative Commons license.


Flash Video Embed

This video is not supported by your device. Continue browsing to find other stuff you'll love!

In case you were wondering what matters to us, it's your privacy. Read our updated privacy policy.

Hey, Internet Friend. Looks like you're using a crazy old web browser, which is no longer supported. Please consider upgrading to something more modern—for a better experience, and a safer time online. We only want the best for you.

Download Google Chrome, and try it for a week. Don't think about it, just do it. You'll thank us later.