KIRO 7 investigates increased EMS calls

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Kate 2 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #80648

    JM98107
    Participant

    Kiro TV looks at problems near a Ballard homeless housing location.

    http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/neighborhood-sees-410-increase-ems-calls-after-hom/nmFtw/

    #80678

    Shane Dillon
    Participant

    So Urness House is actually costing the city more money to treat homelessness than before? Who would have though that enabling people to abuse themselves in a city funded place wouldn’t be more of a strain on emergency services.

    Very sad really. Maybe it should be a house where (not a prison) people are locked up and treated to get of substances and go cold turkey?

    Total waste of money

    #80684

    Anonymous

    This story leaves many questions unanswered. It says there was a 410 percent increase in fire calls; fire calls are often prompted by medical emergencies, not crime, and given this population, one would reasonably expect them to have more medical issues than the average person. No big surprise there.

    It also mentions that assaults are up, but doesn’t mention where those assaults occurred, which could lead one to think that they happened on the streets, making the area more dangerous. More likely, they happened indoors between residents, therefore posing no threat to the general public.

    A much more insightful story is this one about 1811 Eastlake, which like Nyer Urness has a “housing first” model – that is, people aren’t required to be clean or sober to be residents.

    http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/case-allowing-homeless-drink-alcohol-recovery-supportive-housing-96061

    A study showed that 1811 Eastlake saved taxpayers $4 million in its first year of operation due to costs that would have been incurred through emergency room visits, higher insurance premiums to offset the medical costs of caring for the uninsured, incarceration costs, etc. Once people are in housing, they tend to stabilize and cost less overall. I bet the same is true for Nyer Urness residents.

    Bottom line is, we pay one way or another for homeless people. Getting them into permanent housing is not just the most humane solution, but also the most cost-effective one in the long run.

    #80688

    JM98107
    Participant

    Of course, the EMS calls are up compared to when the property was a couple of rundown abandoned houses with bum squatters. I think the do-gooder phenomenon of enabling the bum lifestyle is ridiculous. Rewarding people for being irresponsible is is costing too much. Taxpayers would rather support schools, street repairs and public safety. The comments under the KIRO story are amusing.

    #80692

    Anonymous

    JM, as I said, you pay one way or another. Taxpayers can either pay for housing homeless people, or pay the much bigger and longer-term costs of leaving them on the streets.

    #80694

    Shane Dillon
    Participant

    There are no helping some people unfortunately. Maybe their actions are only going to lead to the inevitable and by interfering all we are doing is delaying that.

    That sounds really horrible, there has to be a better solution for people that can’t help themselves. We should not pay for such a service where we allow substance abuse.

    #80696

    Anonymous

    That might be true, SD, but I believe society has an obligation to help its most vulnerable populations. It’s easy to think homelessness or poverty are just a result of people’s poor choices, but the reality is much more complicated than that.

    I don’t know what that better solution would be. If someone is so addicted they can’t help themselves, putting them in housing and providing services that can help them stabilize and get help for their problems seems like the best solution to me. It’s not about “allowing” substance abuse. It’s about meeting people where they’re at. You can’t force a person out of substance abuse.

    #80700

    GAM
    Participant

    I agree that we will pay one way or another. If putting them in housing first saves money, what’s not to like?

    I’m am always open to a better solution. Until it comes along, this approach seems pretty smart.

    #80701

    Angeline
    Participant

    I can’t understand how to evaluate these numbers. Increased calls/costs for that address, sure. Is it an overall increase for the region these people would have been spread out in before being gathered to Urness? Hard to tell. I guess when people are grouped their problems are more likely to be observed, and authorities called to deal with them. If a problem happens where someone is living in a tent in the bushes near I-5, many times no one will even know and thus no EMS call. Also when people are living rough in their cars or under bridges they don’t have to deal with near neighbors much and are motivated to stay under the radar, so fewer fights (or fewer reported fights).

    #80703

    Anonymous

    Good points, Angeline. There might well be more calls because there are staff around to recognize medical and other problems that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. And as you mentioned, there’s no way of knowing how the number of calls would compare if these people were living elsewhere around the region. Some context is needed to put the numbers into perspective.

    Utah has been hugely successful in reducing homelessness – by over 70 percent – through the housing first model. It costs anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year per person to deal with chronically homeless people, the type of people who now live in Nyer Urness. Clearly it’s much less expensive and more humane to provide them with housing. If this can be done in a place as politically conservative as Utah, I don’t see why it hasn’t been done already in Seattle. We can solve homelessness here if there’s the political will to do it.

    #80704

    GAM
    Participant

    With absolutely no data to back this up (’cause that’s how we roll on the internet, amirite?), I can’t help but wonder if these increased calls, by virtue of them being placed by trained staff, are often being placed before circumstances are truly out of control.

    That is, I wonder if these greater number of calls cost less in the long run because they are for less serious, albeit more frequent, occurances? That is the theory behind this sort of housing after all.

    I agree, it’s surprising this approach hasn’t been embraced more in our area. Is this the fabled entrenched interests at work, blocking other approaches? That very “conspiracy theorist” to suggest, of course.

    #80705

    JM98107
    Participant

    The same money would be better spent on early childhood education, vocational training and not spend it on burnout bums who keep reaching for another bottle and cigarette. Let’s fund something with a future. Bums are waste of taxpayer dollars.

    #80706

    Angeline
    Participant

    I think part of the question is whether we are actually talking about “the same money” being spent. “Bums” eat up tax payer dollars in many ways. We are going to spend money on people who need help one way or another. In jail cells, in ERs, in police being called. And these costs repeat many times per individual. Why not put THAT “same money” into something that will actually help people? And Utah has found they can actually use less of the “same money,” potentially freeing up a portion to be used for other purposes, like education, that can prevent poverty, homelessness and addiction. If this model works, as the Utah example seems to prove, we would spend ever less on the “bum” end of the problem and ever more on the prevention end.

    #80708

    Anonymous

    GAM, it’s not conspiracy theory at all. It’s an absolute fact. Greg Nickels, who was in office when 1811 Eastlake opened, increased funding for homelessness services and proposed gradually shifting money away from temporary programs like shelters and into housing first models. Homeless activists like SHARE/Wheel were vehemently opposed and fought it. They get paid per shelter bed – so a move toward a housing first model threatens their business model. These are the same people who run tent cities, remember, another temporary solution that does nothing to end homelessness.

    Seattle was one of the first cities in the nation to open a housing first development. We were on the path to actually addressing homelessness in a meaningful way, but under Mike McGill, who of course was supported by SHARE/Wheel and the homelessness activist camp, the city just returned to the old way of doing business. That’s how we got to where we are today.

    Angeline, exactly.

    #80709

    Anonymous

    Also – the Seattle Times had an editorial today about mental health law reform and it noted that the state cut $80M in mental health funding during the recession. That has surely contributed to Seattle’s homeless problem. I’ve noticed a marked increase over the past few years of obviously mentally ill people around Ballard in the past few years. While out running errands yesterday (in Ballard and Sodo), I saw a man walking through traffic at the intersection of Ballard and 24th, carrying a bunch of his belongings and talking to himself – just walking through traffic against the light. I saw a man dragging a shopping cart down 1st avenue in Sodo, also talking to himself and clearly mentally ill.

    It’s long frustrated me that people tend to frame the local homeless problem as simply an economic one. The chronically homeless are not just victims of capitalism. They have much deeper problems than that. And we’re seeing more and more of those people on on the streets of Ballard and throughout the city. It’s really disturbing.

    #80742

    Shane Dillon
    Participant

    Just to be clear. There are no ‘wet houses’ or government funded housing that allows substance abuse in Utah. There is housing for homeless, but they have strict rules.

    I think what they have at Urness is a bad idea. Give them the housing, but ban the substance/alcohol abuse or at least treat it.

    #80744

    Kate
    Participant

    SD,

    I don’t know about Compass and Nyer Urness, but DESC’s ‘housing first’ model doesn’t just stick people in a building and call it a day. This their description of the process:

    “Most DESC housing residents live with challenges that would seem overwhelming or insurmountable to the average person: mental illness, drug and alcohol addictions, HIV, physical or developmental disabilities, and extreme poverty. In most cases, they are not affected by just one of these conditions, but are multiply disabled and have long histories of homelessness or frequent failures in other low-income housing settings. To increase their opportunity for success, residents in each of our housing sites have access to 24-hour a day, 7 days a week supportive services:

    State-licensed mental health and chemical dependency treatment
    On-site health care services
    Daily meals and weekly outing to food banks
    Case management and payee services
    Medication monitoring
    Weekly community building activities”

    I’ve toured their facilities and talked to current and former residents. It works and it’s a lot better than allowing random groups of people to put up tents in vacant lots and giving them port-a-potties.

    #80746

    Anonymous

    “It works and it’s a lot better than allowing random groups of people to put up tents in vacant lots and giving them port-a-potties.”

    YESSSSS!

    SD, I’m not sure that’s correct. The Housing First model by definition does not require people to get clean or sober to be given housing. But as Kate pointed out, supportive services are provided to help with substance abuse issues.

    #80750

    Mondoman
    Participant

    The problem, of course, is that Urness House was imposed on Ballard by Compass, without consultation on what would be an appropriate location for a building with that many non-clean/sober residents. Since it causes hundreds of 911 (medical) emergency responses every year, it’s clearly not suitable for placement in its current location, but instead should have been placed in an urban location that already has high noise levels and activity 24/7 — perhaps next to Swedish Ballard.

    The suckers///////folks buying condos in the new building across the street from Urness House are in for an unpleasant surprise when they move in!

    #80765

    Shane Dillon
    Participant

    Actually I called The Utah Housing and Community Development Division and though you don’t have to be ‘clean’ to get housed under the housing first plan, you do have to follow their rules of conduct which prohibit substance abuse. And due to this at present just over 6% of people are evicted within the first few months.

    They were clear to point out that these are not ‘wet houses’ and were for all types of chronic homeless issues.

    #80770

    Anonymous

    Interesting, SD. I wonder how they define substance abuse. Does that just apply to illegal drugs? What about hardcore alcoholics? How would they monitor substance abuse involving alcohol?

    #80777

    Kate
    Participant

    They also have a code of conduct at the DESC supportive housing units. I don’t know what the statistics for violations are, but I do know that people have been kicked out.

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