TACKLING homelessness early could save the public purse up to £18,000 in just one year for each person helped, charity Crisis revealed in a report published yesterday.
Preventing homelessness in single people, who are less likely to receive help from social services than families, is much less expensive in the long run than allowing it to continue for years.
Rough-sleeping and sofa-surfing destroys health and heightens the risks of social isolation and unemployment. These all increase contact with accident and emergency departments, social services and the criminal justice system, the charity says.
People of “no fixed abode” are at danger of developing conditions that are much more complex and costly to cure, while their housing problems continue, than if they were quickly assisted in putting down stable roots and registering with a GP.
The one-off cost to local authorities of helping a man who has become homeless after losing his job by providing housing options and three months of support is just £1,426.
One year of help costs £14,000, estimates the report authored by Nicholas Pleace of the centre for housing policy at the University of York.
This figure compares to at least £20,000 after the first 12 months if the man develops mental health problems and alcoholism. Costs would rise sharply over the years if authorities keep turning a blind eye.
Someone in their thirties with a learning difficulty, who had been evicted by a private landlord after relying on a family member who died, would cost up to £5,000 in one-off help.
In comparison, one year of homelessness would drain the public purse of at least £13,000. The costs would soar if housing teams and shelters kept overlooking the person.
The report concludes: “It is vitally important to not lose sight of the scale of the human cost of single homelessness.
“The unique distress of lacking a settled home, which can be combined with isolation, high support needs and a disconnection from mainstream social and economic life, is perhaps the most damaging form of poverty and marginalisation that can be experienced in the UK.”