Denver city officials say 250 chronically homeless people are costing taxpayers about $7 million per year. Some of those longtime homeless people people will begin moving into apartments this week.
"And that costs the taxpayers a lot of money," said Cary Kennedy, Denver's CFO and Deputy Mayor.
A program approved by council is the city's largest effort to put substantial resources into permanent supportive housing for the homeless. Council members approved an $8.6 million social impact bond for the apartments on Monday night. $15 million in federal resources will also be leveraged for the program.
"No one believes that this is going to end homelessness, but it’s really a down payment to both immediately house up to 250 people, keep them housed but to demonstrate the effectiveness of that approach," said John Parvensky, President of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Figures from the city paint a picture of the resources being used by these chronically homeless individuals every year. On average they are arrested 1,500 times, spend about 14,000 days in jail, go to detox 2,200 times, and visit the emergency room 500 times.
"We can save taxpayers money, it is less expensive for us to have them in a small apartment with supportive services than it is to have them rotating through the courts and the jail," said Kennedy.
Construction will being this spring on 200 units. Outreach workers are beginning to place people in existing apartments this week by working with local landlords throughout the city. 25 people will be housed in a new building located on the southwest corner of Colorado and 40th. It is set to open next week.
The city is working with private investors to provide housing and a variety of wrap around services. Buildings will have a case manager on-site 24/7. Mental health and addiction services will also be provided.
There is no limit on the amount of time someone can live in one of the apartments. Parvensky said it will vary on a case by case basis.
The program comes with a catch, investors will be paid based on the overall success rate. A six year study by the Urban Institute will also determine if the person stayed off the street and if the city saved money.
Street outreach workers received a list of people who would be candidates for the apartments. Mike McManus has been working with Denver's homeless for 20 years. He says he often run into the same person over and over, only to watch that individual cycle through the system.
“We knew a good 50 percent of the names on there were people that we not only knew, we knew them very well and we know that they are people who are constantly in and out of jail," said Mike McManus, an outreach worker.