Housing for homeless worthy of support

Giving free housing to the homeless is anathema to many. Doing so will just encourage more of the same, spreading and perpetuating an already severe social ill.

But experience has shown otherwise. And that’s why a proposed local “Housing First Village” should be given serious consideration.

The plan would combine the efforts of local churches, the HRDC social service agency and Montana State University students to develop a village of tiny houses of less than 200 square feet, each to house the chronically homeless.

The proposal is grounded in the theory that when a person is homeless, nothing else really matters. And the obstacle of homelessness prevents the homeless for squaring off with the root problems of mental illness, substance abuse and unemployment. Take away the problem of homelessness, and many will find their way to self-sufficiency.

And it’s more than just a theory. There is hard evidence that efforts like this have produced results in the very conservative state of Utah — results that have been replicated in New York, Detroit and San Francisco. Giving the homeless a home in those areas has significantly cut down on the costs incurred by emergency rooms and jails and resulted in a net savings in societal costs.

The HRDC and local clergy are spearheading the effort locally. When they approached Bozeman city planners with the idea, they were put in touch with MSU architecture students who designed prototype tiny homes — bed, toilet, shower and kitchenette — that could be built for about $10,000 apiece. Social and health services, which are already provided though in dispersed locations, would be provided on the spot.

Now the project is in search of a location and funding. More information can be found at: https://www.thehrdc.org/how-we-help/housing/housing-first-initiatives/#HousingFirstVillage

The Bozeman area has a substantial and growing homeless population — an inevitable outcome of rapid overall population growth. And this much is clear: Ignoring it or doing the minimum isn’t solving the problem.

The Housing First Village idea combines the best intentions of churches with the homelessness expertise of HRDC and building talents found in the MSU School of Architecture for a possible homelessness solution on the cutting edge nationally.

It’s an effort worthy of our support, both individually and through our elected leaders.

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