Time to bulldoze those homeless shelters.
That's the conclusion you could reach after reading the headlines following the release of a HUD study on the costs of housing the homeless:
Apartment rents cheaper than stays in homeless shelters
Shelters are costly answer, HUD study finds
Study: Rent units better for homeless, city budget
The articles all go on to portray homeless shelters as wasteful entities to be abandoned in favor of paying the rent.
But the actual study focuses on first-time homeless families and individuals and provides a more nuanced view of the cost-effectiveness than USA Today would have you believe.
Tackling homelessness requires a comprehensive approach that addresses its various causes. Preventing a family from becoming homeless by paying their rent may work for a household with an out-of-work parent, but a chronically homeless individual facing mental illness or substance abuse issues faces completely different obstacles.
Cities from Miami to San Antonio are moving toward a more nuanced approach, building campuses with both emergency shelters and permanent housing linked to social services. But just as with cities knocking down housing projects, these cities must be careful about those that get displaced when shelters get shut down.