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October 11, 2013
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Editorial: Contribution to Casa de Belen is a wise investment

If it comes down to cost — and it usually does — the Roseburg City Council will find a way to send some money to Casa de Belen, which provides transitional housing for families with teens, homeless teens and homeless teen parents.

The real question for councilors isn’t how much to spend, but how much it will cost if it spends nothing. Either way there will be a price to pay and it’s tough to put a price tag on a life.

The nonprofit program for homeless individuals that operates on a shoestring budget received $20,000 last year from the city, but a budget committee left it off this year’s list and the City Council is expected to approve the final budget Monday night.

As the council considers its final spending plan, we hope it can consider what it got for its money from Casa de Belen this past year.

According to the agency’s executive director, Penny McCue, Casa de Belen provided 11,790 days and nights of safe and warm housing for homeless teens and families with teens since last July. It is the only facility that provides transitional housing for homeless teen boys. It is also the only facility that allows families to stay together.

Of the 111 residents the home has served the last 10 months, 13 are middle school students and 24 are under 12 years old, according to McCue. It has also provided almost 16,000 meals and 195 health exams.

What have these young people done with their lives off the streets? According to McCue, 19 of the residents have found full-time employment, another 19 are currently enrolled in high school and 60 have become self-sufficient.

The agency has managed to do all of this for just an average of $12 per day per resident, which compares very favorably to the cost of doing nothing, or leaving those teens to fend for themselves on Roseburg’s streets.

McCue reminded the budget committee that it costs $79 per day to house an inmate at the county jail and it costs anywhere from $113 to $129 to keep a young offender at the Juvenile Detention Center.

It’s a good bet the $20,000 the city provided last year paid for itself a few times over. The city has been struggling — with mixed results — to address its growing homeless population for years now. Casa de Belen has demonstrated results and a solid return on the city’s $20,000 investment and we encourage the city to reinvest.

The question isn’t how much to spend, but how much it will cost if those young lives served by Case de Belen aren’t given a chance to become productive adults.

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The News-Review Updated Oct 11, 2013 11:00AM Published Oct 11, 2013 11:00AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.