The cost of providing housing and services to first-time homeless individuals and families varies widely from $581 a month for an individual’s stay in an emergency shelter in Des Moines, Iowa, to about $3,530 a month for a family to stay in a shelter in Washington, D.C., reported federal housing officials.

The price tags are detailed in Costs Associated with First-Time Homelessness for Families and Individuals, a new study released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“These studies expand our knowledge of the true costs of homelessness and raise other questions that go far beyond dollars and cents,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a statement. “Now, we need to have a serious discussion over what strategies are not only most cost effective but how we can help individuals and families from falling into homelessness in the first place.”

The study looks at how much it costs to house and serve nearly 9,000 individuals and families in six areas. First-time homelessness among individuals was examined in Des Moines; Houston; and Jacksonville, Fla. Families were studied in Washington, D.C.; Houston; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and an area of upstate South Carolina.

Researchers looked at emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing.

For individuals, transitional housing was more expensive than permanent supportive housing because services for transitional housing were usually offered directly by on-site staff than by mainstream service providers. For example, in Houston, the average monthly costs were $966 for supportive housing and $1,654 for transitional housing.

For families, emergency shelters were usually equally or more expensive than transitional and permanent supportive housing because family shelters often have 24-hour access and private units. For example, at family sites in Kalamazoo, the cost of emergency shelter was $1,614 compared with $813 for transitional housing and $881 for permanent supportive housing.