How much does homelessness cost taxpayers in one of the wealthiest spots in the world?
According to a study that bills itself as the "largest and most comprehensive body of information assembled in the United States," the number is a significant one: $520 million a year. And the study concluded, getting homeless people off the streets and into homes costs about a third less.
To compare, Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in the heart of Silicon Valley, was estimated in June of 2014 after a surge in stock to have earned $1.6 billion in a single day.
That dollar estimate came as part of the "Home Not Found: The Cost of Homelessness in Silicon Valley" report released on Tuesday. The study was conducted by the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable, which produced the report for Santa Clara County and the nonprofit Destination: Home.
"Understanding, I think, is the first step," said Destination Home's Executive Director Jennifer Loving. "Taxpayers should be wise" to how they are spending their money.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman added that the next step is finding "land and money" to help find homeless people places to live, which he said would be difficult, but possbile.
The study analyzed more than 25 million records and outlines the cost of services provided to more than 104,206 county residents wrestling with homelessness between 2007 and 2012.
Some of the report's key findings:
- A total of $3 billion was spent over a six-year period in the county on services such as trips to the emergency rooms, jail stays and mental health care.
- A small group of about 2,800 persistently homeless alone cost the county about $83,000 each, per year.
- The homeless cost taxpayers $62,000 annually if they are living on the streets, but that number dropped to less than $20,000 on average after they were placed in housing.
- The county has 7,567 homeless -- the nation's seventh-highest total -- according to the 2014 Annual Homeless Report to Congress.
San Jose was also home to the nation's once-largest homeless encampment in the country, dubiously named "The Jungle," which was dismantled around Christmas.
At the time, about 300 people had been living in illegal encampments near Coyote Creek. Since then, smaller homeless encampments have cropped up elsewhere.
Christopher Hernandez was once homeless and was given a "second chance" after being given government-assisted housing.
He came to Tuesday's homeless event to say that things were much worse, and more costly, while living on the streets, including the fact that he lost one leg to diabetes. If he had lived outside much longer, he probably would have lost his other leg, he said.
"I'm glad they found me," he said.