By Jeffrey Schaub

SAN JOSE (KCBS)— A new long-term study commissioned by Santa Clara County shows that it actually might be cheaper to build housing for the homeless than to allow them to live on the streets. Acute homelessness accompanied by mental or physical health issues, or both, can be very expensive for city governments and health care.

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Each year, Santa Clara County Public Health spends half a billion dollars caring for the homeless. Daniel Flaming’s Economic Roundtable conducted the study that shows building housing would cut those costs. Flaming is the president of the non-profit, which was hired by Santa Clara County. The researchers dug through the demographics and needs of some 100,000 people who were homeless in the county between 2007 and 2012.

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“Typically it would be a small apartment, maybe a studio apartment-size unit with a case manager who comes around and maintains contact,” Flaming said. He added that permanently-affordable units are very scarce.

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He said many people who live on the street self-medicate and when someone is given housing, there are fewer crisis and people are getting preventative care. According to Flaming, the challenge of building the housing is finding a combination of private, non-profit and government funds to build as many as 2,000 units.