AUGUSTA, MAINE—Providing permanent supportive housing in rural Maine is less expensive than serving people while they are homeless, according to a new study that followed 163 participants.

The study found a 57 percent drop in the cost of mental health services over a six-month period. Part of that reduction was a 79 percent drop in the cost of psychiatric hospitalization from $452,800 to $96,641.

Earlier this year, a separate study found that a Housing First project in Seattle saved taxpayers more than $4 million over the first year of operation. That figure was the savings for 95 individuals housed at 1811 Eastlake, a project that is home to formerly homeless alcoholics.

Researchers say the Maine study is the first statewide cost of homelessness data collection in the country that looks at the costs of rural homelessness. The study was prepared by Melany Mondello of Shalom House, Jon Bradley of Preble Street, and Tom Chalmers McLaughlin and Nancy Shore, both of the University of New England.

Total costs, including that of providing the permanent supportive housing, were lower for those living in supportive housing by $1,348 per person. That’s a savings of nearly $220,000 over six months for the 163 people in the study.

In other news, homeless advocates applauded the recent signing of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which included the reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs, the largest federal investment in preventing homelessness.

The legislation also establishes protections for renters living in foreclosed properties.