How many times have you heard about the benefits of prevention in the healthcare debate? Advocates for reform champion increased access to insurance because it will allow people to seek preventive care and remain healthy instead of growing sick, while reducing the spiraling system costs associated with treatment for costly chronic conditions.
Prevention works for individuals as well as for the system’s bottom line. It’s a truism that advocates to end homelessness also know. It costs far less, both monetarily and emotionally, to retain a family’s housing than it does to put them up in a shelter while working on new options.
While we know it works, we’re only just beginning to realize implementation of homelessness prevention in North Carolina, thanks to a $29.1 million boost from the federal economic stimulus package. With it, an individual or family at risk of homelessness or who has just become homeless might receive a few months of rent assistance or financial support for a move, along with services such as landlord mediation, credit repair or linkages to community resources such as employment assistance and child care. All in all, that’s much less expensive than the $25,000 it typically costs to place a family in transitional housing for a year, with better outcomes to boot.
The new Homelessness Prevention and Rapid-Rehousing Program (HPRP) is better for those at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness, better for communities struggling to meet increased social service needs and better for neighborhood stabilization.
The concept of ending and preventing homelessness-rather than just managing it-is beginning to take hold in communities across the state. The HPRP is just what the doctor ordered.
For the first time since homelessness became a national epidemic more than a quarter century ago, advocates can now practice what we preach—prevention, prevention, prevention.