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Malcolm Gladwell on solving homelessness

Malcolm Gladwell on solving homelessness

5 November 2009
The radical ideas on solving homelessness popularised by Malcolm Gladwell are back in his new book What the dog saw and other adventures.

When it first appeared, in the New Yorker magazine in 2006, Million Dollar Murray detailed the high cost of health and social services spent on supporting 10% of homeless people.

These ‘chronically homeless’ are high users of health and emergency services, “In New York at least US$62 million was being spent annually to shelter just those 2500 hard-core homeless”.

In another example, the San Diego Medical Center followed 15 chronically homeless with alcohol dependence. Over 18 months those 15 people were treated at the hospital's emergency room 417 times, and ran up bills that averaged a US$100,000 each.

The article argues that it costs far less to house these people, and direct health services to them, than let things continue as they are. Its sub-title reads, Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage.

Downtown Community Ministry Director Stephanie McIntyre says, “This research supports the ‘housing first’ model to be used by Wellington’s Te Whare Oki Oki (wet house). The projection is that with health professionals visiting on-site the demand on emergency services will be greatly reduced”.

“Our experience addressing homelessness mirrors much of what is said in Gladwell’s article. Once housed, people’s reliance on support services decreases and they regain control over their lives.”

“The research is clear, facilities like Te Whare Oki Oki are needed. If we carry on doing what we always have done we’ll be keeping some people stuck in the homelessness cycle.”

See also, Te Tai Tonga MP calls for Compassion

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