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|Chronic homelessness is defined as long-term or repeated homelessness, often coupled with a disability.|
Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development's definition, a chronically homeless individual is one who has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years and has a disability.
Many chronically homeless people have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia and/or an alcohol or drug addiction. Most people who experience chronic homelessness have been in treatment programs in the past and have still found themselves repeatedly homeless.
According to Volume I of the 2012 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, the chronically homeless population, around 100,000 individuals, accounted for just fewer than 16 percent of all homeless people in 2012. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has declined by 19.3 percent since 2007.
The solution to chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing along with homelessness prevention policies.
Permanent supportive housing is housing coupled with supportive services. Research and experience have shown that stable housing is often an essential component to being successful at rehabilitation, therapy, and other areas.
What's more, this intervention is cost-effective. Most people who experience chronic homelessness draw services from many federal, state, and local systems, including hospitals, corrections systems, and the like. Permanent supportive housing curbs use of these systems and reduces public costs.
Studies have shown dramatic results from this intervention. A Journal of the American Medical Association study of the 1811 Eastlake program in Seattle, WA, which provides housing to homeless people with the most extensive health problems, saw a savings of nearly $30,000 per tenant per year in publicly-funded services, all while achieving better housing and health outcomes.
Prevention policies are also important to ending chronic homelessness. By identifying people leaving prisons, mental health facilities, and other institutions who are at risk of becoming homeless and connecting them with housing, we can prevent their homelessness before it begins.