Average cost of sheltering a single homeless family in D.C.: $2,500-$3,700 a month

Mike Riggs Contributor
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According to a study released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and reported by USA Today, it’s cheaper to put homeless families in real homes than it is to house them in shelters:

Many communities probably don’t know that they are spending as much “to maintain a cot in a gymnasium with 100 other cots” as it would cost to rent an efficiency apartment, says Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies housing policies. “We are paying for a form of housing that is largely substandard, and we are paying as much, if not more, than standard conventional housing.”

Not only that, but:

Nationwide, 1.6 million homeless people received shelter in 2008, according to government figures.

“We saw higher costs and longer lengths of stay than expected,” he says. The longest average stay for individuals was 73 days in Des Moines. The longest average stay for families was 309 days in Washington.

But here’s the thing: Forget about efficiency apartments. For between $2,500 and $3,700 a month, one could rent any of the following swank homes:

  • A five-bedroom home in the WASPY/AIPAC-Y neighborhood of Chevy Chase: “Near American University, metro, 4/5 bedroom, 2 ½ bath, central A/C, formal dining room, living room w/fireplace, updated kitchen, and breakfast room/nook, full basement w/washer and dryer, huge deck with separate patio w/magnificent park views, and garage with workroom. On a quiet street near Lafayette school District, walking distance to St. John’s, 20 mins to downtown/Capitol Hill”
  • A newly renovated Georgetown row house: “Newly renovated 2 bedroom, 1 bath with patio, washer/dryer, dishwasher, microwave, granite and stainless steel kitchen, remote control fireplace and separate entrance. Gorgeous exposed brick.” Approximately 1200 SF. Close to Georgetown University, Georgetown Hospital,Wisconsin Ave. and the brand new Safeway set to open May, 2010.
  • A U Street condo: “Sunny, recently renovated 3 BR, 3 full BA, bi-level Townhouse Condo in a two-unit building. Short walk to U Street and Metro. Gourmet kitchen w/granite and stainless steel appliances, LR w/FP, Master BR w/double closets, balcony off rear BR, 3rd BR on ground level. Skylight, hardwood maple floors throughout. Security features, parking included, CAC plus heat. Pets considered on a case by case [basis]”

And for just $2,100–let’s say $2,400 with utilities–a homeless family of four (or more, if the kids shared rooms!) could live in the wonderful Petworth neighborhood (where yours truly resides), less than a mile from the Metro. On the high end, that’s $1,400 in savings per family, per month.

  • “Gourmet Kitchen w/ Granite Counters & Stainless Steel Appliances; Separate Dining Room. Located on a quiet residential street with off street parking and a back yard. Home features CAC, 2.5 bathrooms, finished basement, hardwood floors, washer/dryer in unit, pets okay”

A backyard! That’s great!