The growing problem of homelessness is costing the Quad Cities.
Here’s a snapshot of that:
- Humility Homes and Services says it costs them about $60 to house someone in their shelter overnight.
- It takes about $40 to put that person in transitional housing.
- It takes about $45 to help them maintain permanent housing.
But how do people end up at shelters in the first place? And why does it seem to take so long for them to find their way out?
Local 4’s Tahera Rahman has been investigating for weeks and shares some answers in part one of a special report.
“It’s the emergency room for people who are experiencing homelessness,” says Christie Adamson, Humility Homes and Services COO.
Every morning, staff members do intakes.
“We’re turning away 4 to 5 people everyday because we don’t have room,” Adamson says.
Across the river, Rock Island’s Christian Care is also facing that daily challenge.
“We are always full,” says Melody Williams, resident services coordinator at Christian Care.
Adamson says they’re also seeing more new faces in line.
“There’s something going on where people are entering the system that haven’t been in it before,” she says.
That something, says Williams, could be anything.
“A lot of people are just one paycheck away from becoming homeless.”
But both experts say the real problem is “A complete and total lack of affordable housing in our community– there’s not enough,” says Adamson.
So no matter how you end up on the streets…
“They couldn’t find a good job or because they’re struggling with mental health or addiction, it’s the same problem to get them back out,” Adamson explains.
Once you get to a shelter, you’ve hit a bottleneck in the system.
“Our housing specialists literally sometimes argue over available apartment units because there’s just such a small amount that if somebody identifies a great affordable unit, they want to make sure their participant has access to it,” Adamson says.
That’s about 70 people in one shelter vying for one unit.
And researcher Maya Brennan says that doesn’t count competition from others in need.
“The Quad Cities metro area has more than 11,000 extremely low income renter households and they’re competing for fewer than 2,400 places,” says Brennan, senior policy associate at the Urban Institute.
And making those odds worse, says Adamson, is that low income renters often have to go head to head with those who are simply looking for a deal.
“So you have a landlord who says, ‘This apartment, $500,’ and you have all these people that aren’t extremely low income that also want that cheap apartment. So people who can afford maybe more don’t want to pay more of course, neither would I.”
All three experts agree that creating more affordable housing would unplug the system, moving more people from shelters to homes and opening up those spots to give more people on the streets a chance.
“Shelter is not a permanent destination, shelter is not a housing plan, shelter is not a long term housing solution,” Adamson says.
Because people who experience homelessness aren’t able to flow in and out of shelters very easily, it’s creating a pileup on the streets.
Local 4’s Tahera Rahman asked two men what surviving has meant for them in part two of her special report.