Richard's Reality: The Cost of Chronic Homelessness in Context

Reports and Publications
October 2008
Yuri Artibise, William Hart, Nancy Welch, Andrea Whistsett

In recent years, Arizona agencies and service providers have changed some policies and programs for homelessness in response to a significant shift in federal policy as well as local experience. Nationally and locally, the emphasis now is on using resources to end rather than manage homelessness. But even with a variety of changes, does Arizona still have its share of residents who are chronically homeless? The answer is yes. Approximately 1,200 to more than 3,000 residents in Maricopa County experience chronic homelessness. In addition, practitioners in the homelessness field “estimate that on any given day 20,000-30,000 people are homeless in Arizona and not served by the homeless services system.”

In the words of one Arizona professional, Arizonans—such as Richard—represent the “hardest of the hard to serve.” Since these residents could be the next million-dollar Murrays, how do the average costs break down? Richard’s Reality is a first step in answering that question. Food, shelter, case management, employment services, public safety, healthcare, and other services come into play for those who are chronically homeless. Not every person uses all types of services, while some are intensive users. The following figures provide the context needed to begin a broad-based discussion of chronic homelessness in Arizona.