Local progam helping homeless saved taxpayers $7M - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local progam helping homeless saved taxpayers $7M

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A year-old program designed to get 25 of the most chronically homeless San Diegans off the streets saved taxpayers an estimated $7.6 million last year, the organizers said Tuesday.

Project 25 ended up helping 35 people - 10 more than expected - with permanent housing found for 30 of them, according to its leaders, who include representatives of the United Way of San Diego County, the county of San Diego, the city of San Diego and its Housing Commission and St. Vincent de Paul Village.

"These results are beyond what any of us expected," said Brian Maienschein, the former San Diego city councilman who spearheads the effort.

"Project 25 is meeting its dual purpose - to stabilize and better the lives of some of San Diego County's most disadvantaged and suffering community members and saving taxpayers money in the process."

Those helped by the program were the most frequent users of government programs and public safety resources, draining government and institutional budgets with frequent arrests, jail stays, hospitalization and emergency room visits, organizers said.

While chronically homeless in 2010, the 35 participants used more than $11 million in public resources, according to data reviewed by the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Since Project 25 began enrolling participants in March 2011, the estimated one-year cost for participants is down to $3.4 million, according to preliminary figures, a nearly 70 percent reduction in taxpayer expenditures.

The average public cost per participant in 2010 was $317,904, compared to $97,437 in 2011 while enrolled in Project 25.

The drop was due to a 77 percent reduction in emergency room visits, 72 percent fewer ambulance rides, 69 percent fewer arrests, a 66 percent decline in hospitalizations and 43 percent fewer days spent in jail, according to the organizers.

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