What Will Homelessness from Evictions Cost the Public?

Homeless Child

The National Low Income Housing Coalition Estimates Costs Upwards of $129 Billion

February 1st, 2021

Mark that date on your calendar as one to be remembered in reverence of the tens of millions of Americans who will stagger away from their rental properties with no place left to turn. If they are fortunate enough, they might leave with whatever belongings they are physically fit enough to carry.

The less fortunate will leave with nothing. Their lives will reside behind locked barricades. Their worldly possessions – the stack of birth certificates, the cabinet of prescription medication, the closet of diapers, bookbags and clothing, the laptops their children need to attend virtual schooleverything will sit there behind a locked door. The formal piece of paper declaring their new state of homelessness will be all that is left to bear their names.

Of all the ways to wind up homeless, eviction is one of the leading and most brutal …

If something doesn’t happen soon, we will witness this predicament happen in unfathomable numbers. As of right now, February 1st is the final day of the eviction moratorium extension.

According to the NLIHC and the Innovation for Justice Program, an incident of mass eviction would incur astronomical costs for the general population. In total, they estimate those costs to total somewhere between $62 billion and $129 billion. They have broken those costs down into five categories. The categories are as follows:

1. Emergency Shelter

If mass eviction does take place on February 1st, preliminary data suggests that approximately 25% of those evicted renters will wind up homeless and will need to be housed in emergency shelters.

With shelters already overcrowded and service workers already understaffed, such an event would drive up the cost of construction and operation of emergency shelters considerably. The current estimates for doing so are somewhere between $27 billion and $56 billion.

Bear in mind that those numbers reflect only a 90-day need for shelter. If that need inflates, so will the price tag.

2. Inpatient Medical Care

The medical care homelessness necessitates cannot be understated. Housing instability is proven to bring about a multitude of mental, physical, and emotional traumas which present in the form of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicide ideation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Malnutrition
  • Poor dental health
  • Loss of limbs
  • Loss of life and more

The NLIHC estimates that 23% of the one-quarter of renters who become homeless in the face of mass eviction will need inpatient care. 80% of that care will be a direct result of their new state of homelessness – not from a pre-existing mental or physical health condition. The price tag for inpatient care alone will likely run about $29 billion.

3. Emergency Medical Care

Unlike in the past, homelessness during an international pandemic is likely to incur higher-than-usual expenditures in the form of emergency medical care. This is because we must tie in the regular cost of emergencies and add to that the pending risk of contracting COVID-19.

In addition to possible lives lost, we are looking at a price that falls between $8 billion and $18 billion.

4. Foster Care

Sadly, children whose families get evicted are at an increased risk of winding up in the foster care system. This is a vicious circle indeed as children hailing from foster homes are then, in turn, more likely to experience homelessness. With almost a quarter of renters with children now in the rears for past due rent and 40% of renters with children expressing low confidence in being able to pay rent in the future, mass eviction will likely take a devastating toll on the US foster care system. This cost is estimated to fall between $8 billion and $17 billion.

5. Juvenile Delinquency

Being forced to endure the horrors of homelessness adversely affects youth, giving way to a rise in generational juvenile delinquency. Statistics show that approximately 25% of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 will be arrested or detained after becoming evicted.

Imprisonment will cost them their youth. It will cost you upwards of $9 billion.

Other Consequences of Eviction

There are some things, like a society’s overall health that you simply cannot put a price tag on. This report attempted to quantify homelessness in order to show that creating a $100 billion rental assistance fund was in the best interest of taxpayers both morally and financially. There are other consequences of eviction that should also be taken into account. Some of the most pressing include:

  • Price of homelessness criminalization for adults and juveniles
  • An increased need for housing assistance due to the eviction marring the renter’s record
  • The price society must pay when homeless children are forced to drop out of school
  • The individual toll homelessness takes on the psyche of the person who must endure it, who will never be the same again

The latest COVID relief package includes $25 billion in rent relief, which is not nearly enough. The extended eviction moratorium is already running out of time. Please call or email your legislators and express your concern regarding financial aid to prevent mass evictions.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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