Permanent Housing for 85 Homeless People Saved Taxpayers $1.8 Million (And 18 Other Facts to Think About)

Did you know an elephant can bring in more than $1.6 million during its lifetime—from ecotourism?
Key in lock with "Home Sweet Home" keychain. Photo by Shutterstock.

This article appears in Cities Are Now, the Winter 2015 issue of YES! Magazine.

Percentage of American children enrolled in preschool who are black: 18

Percentage of all preschool students suspended from school who are black: 48

Percentage of families of fast-food workers who are enrolled in one or more public assistance programs: 52

Cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry: $7 billion

McDonald’s net income in 2013: $5.6 billion

Value, according to ecological economists, of the planet’s annual “ecosystem services” (including clean water, fertile soil, and atmospheric regulation): $125 trillion

Annual gross domestic product worldwide: $74.9 trillion

Percentage of 27 Appalachian streams in mined valleys that were impaired according to Clean Water Act Standards: 90

In a 78-year lifespan, number of days of ill health directly associated with residence in a mountaintop removal mining county: 1,404

Length, in feet, of the world’s largest beaver dam (found in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park): 2,789

Estimated duration, in years, of the dam’s ongoing multigenerational construction: 25

Amount taxpayers saved when 85 chronically homeless individuals in Charlotte, N.C., were provided with permanent supportive housing: $1.8 million

Percentage reduction in emergency room visits by tenants after moving into supportive housing: 78

Average cost of hospital bills per tenant in the year prior to living in housing: $41,542

Average annual cost of hospital bills per tenant while living in housing: $12,472

Tons of toxic materials from mobile and stationary sources removed from the air every year since the Clean Air Act was amended in 1990: 3 million

Compared to 1990 levels, percentage by which the EPA predicts airborne toxic materials from cars and trucks will fall by 2030: 80

Value of a single elephant’s tusks: $21,000

Estimated lifetime ecotourism value of a single elephant: $1,607,625



1. “Data Snapshot: School Discipline,” Civil Rights Data Collection (U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights), March 2014. 2. “Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry,” Sylva A. Allegretto et al., UC Berkeley Labor Center, October 15, 2013. 3. “McDonald’s Ends Challenging 2013 with Lackluster Earnings,” Maggie McGrath, Forbes, January 23, 2014. 4. “Changes in the Global Value of Ecosystem Services,” Robert Costanza et al., Global Environmental Change, May 2014 (Vol 26). 5. “Gross domestic product 2013,” World DataBank. 6. “Mountaintop Removal Mining: Digging Into Community Health Concerns,” David C. Holzman, Environmental Health Perspectives, November 1, 2011. 7. “Health-related quality of life among central Appalachian residents in mountaintop mining communities,” Keith Zullig and Michael Hendryx, American Journal of Public Health, May 2011 (Vol. 101, No. 5). 8. “World’s largest beaver dam explored by Rob Mark,” Scott Lilwall, CBC News, September 9, 2014. 9. “Rethinking the beaver,” Frances Backhouse, Canadian Geographic, December 2012. 10. “Moore Place Permanent Supportive Housing Evaluation Study: Year One Report,” University of North Carolina at Charlotte School of Social Work, February 14, 2014. 11. “National Air Toxics Program: The Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, August 21, 2014. 12. “Dead or Alive? Valuing an Elephant,” David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, October 2014