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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Study Finds Well House Saves Taxpayers Money


Well House is saving taxpayers money while offering housing to people who previously lived on the street.

That’s according to a new study by the Johnson Center and the Frey Foundation. 

It might seem either obvious or radical, depending on your views - but simply providing a home for people who don’t have one is the approach that Executive Director Tami VandenBerg says the agency has taken to addressing homelessness.

“We have 13 houses - four of those are under construction right now. I believe the latest point in time I saw, [there were] about 50 people living here.”

For those 50, having long-term housing has long-term effects.

“Our last report that came through is we were just a little over 92 percent of people that have moved in not returning to homelessness.”

VandenBerg says there are benefits to the resident’s health, employment, and family connections. But there are also cost-saving benefits for taxpayers: from decreased contact with police and courts to basic needs.

“Things you do just on a daily basis: going to the bathroom, sleeping, being in a space that doesn’t belong to you because you don’t have a space. And so, people are often arrested on the street.”

VandenBerg says residents averaged 13 days in jail per year before living at Well House, and just under three days once they’re there. She says this means each resident saves tax payers at least $700 a year.

“That (number) doesn’t even include law enforcement time, that doesn’t include court cost, that doesn’t include sort of all the bureaucratic costs that go with an arrest.”

Ultimately, according to VandenBerg, the findings may point to something bigger.

“What communities are finding around the country - and that I think we’re going to  be able to find - is that it actually is going to cost all of us way less money to move people into housing, rather than to leave them on the street.”

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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