Palm Beach County tackling homelessness

Palm Beach County tackling homelessness

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New numbers from the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County estimate 1,600 people can be found living on the streets countywide on any given day.

County leaders are working on a push to solve the crisis. They've partnered with Andrae Bailey, a man who's proven he can shrink a large homeless population.

A few years ago, Bailey launched a campaign called "Rethink Homelessness" that changed the way the city of Orlando handled its homeless crisis. Instead of helping people find something to eat or a place to sleep, the initiative put the homeless into their very own homes.

"You can give someone a few dollars who's panhandling, you can pass out a few meals at your local homeless shelter and give out blankets on a cold night," Bailey said, "But at the end of the day, people need more help than that.

Palm Beach County brought Bailey on-board as a consultant, to help solve the problem of homelessness in a similar way in South Florida.

In Central Florida, the housing-first initiative cut the homeless population in half in months. Bailey convinced elected officials, business leaders and the faith-based community to work together, ad in doing so, they raised millions of dollars to fund the campaign.

Now, more than a thousand former homeless people live in permanent homes in the Orlando area. As a part of the program, they're also given medical and mental care.

"It was cheaper to help those who are chronically homeless," Bailey said, "Cheaper to help them than to let them be on the streets, get arrested, go into emergency rooms over and over again."

The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness determined it cost the region more than $31,000 per homeless person per year to cover expenses like medical costs, benefits and jail time. According to the commission, giving the homeless homes to live on cut that figure down to $11,000 per person per year, saving taxpayers millions.

Bailey will work with Palm Beach County leaders to grow the initiative and cultivate support.

Scripps Only Content 2017