The cost of preventing homelessness, or at least making a major dent, is small compared to many other national priorities.
Evidence is provided through initial results of federal spending through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as President Obama's economic stimulus.
Stimulus critics have abounded, describing the stimulus as everything from wasteful to budget-busting to socialist, but the book "The New New Deal" by Time magazine contributor Michael Grunwald details the Recovery Act's widespread and under-publicized results.
Consider homelessness prevention, which received a comparatively scant $1.5 billion of the $787 billion two-year stimulus package. Grunwald reports that the funds helped provide shelter for more than 1.2 million Americans in hardship and held the homeless count in check during the worst economy since the 1930.
"It works," said Ron Book, who chairs the Miami-Dad County Homeless Trust. "It keeps people off the streets and saves an astronomical amount of money. I'm not a fan of the stimulus, but this is a huge bright spot." And Book is not a bleeding heart Obama liberal. In everyday life he's a Republican lobbyist.
Consider that a National Priorities Project website, costofwar.com, through mid-November 2012 calculated the post-millennium cost of the U.S. Middle East wars at $1.4 trillion, nearly 1,000 times higher than the Recovery Act's $1.5 billion homelessness prevention effort. Plus, according to Gunwald, that $1.5 billion investment was 60 times the previous norm.
It could be said that we should think of people rather than dollars, but dollars do make all the difference in the world. When we think of our tax dollars and our federal government budget, we should give more priority to homelessness prevention and other anti-poverty programs. Some people, especially political conservatives, has a false impression that these priorities cost tons of money, whereas the main tax burdens are the military and the costs of war, along with overpriced health care.