Many things can come into our mind when we see a person or a group of people living on the street who are experiencing homelessness. We can ask questions such as, why don’t they just get a job? Are they on drugs? Will more people move to my city if we start providing services and housing?

When these questions come to mind, they are usually based on a set of assumptions. One of the publications I have used to educate myself about homelessness in Orange County is the UC Irvine and United Way Cost of Homelessness study. Some of the findings of the study are surprising:

  • 70 percent of Orange County’s homeless have lived here 10 years or more.
  • Evictions and foreclosures, insufficient income and job loss combine as the top reasons for homelessness in the county.
  • Substance abuse of alcohol and/or drugs was a factor cited by 22 percent of those surveyed, with mental health mentioned by 17 percent. Only 7 percent had been recently released from jail or prison.
  • The average annual cost of services for the chronically homeless steeply declines when they are housed, a 40 percent drop when they are placed in permanent supportive housing from the $85,000 when they live on the streets or in emergency shelters.
  • The UCI analysis put the financial burden on local hospitals and emergency departments at $77 million.

For more info see this article in the OC Register: Price tag of homelessness in Orange County is nearly $300 million, UCI study finds. We all have more to learn about our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. 

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