Homelessness isn’t free of significant costs

A 2001 B.C. study indicated that it cost $30,000-$40,000 annually to support one homeless person

Clearwater Homelessness Partnering Strategy

It could be easy sitting inside our warm and cosy homes to wonder why homelessness is our problem. As we discussed in last week’s article, there are many reasons for homelessness such loss of a job or because of health issues. Occasionally homelessness can be because of poor life choices but no matter the reason, everyone deserves a home.  If the compassionate feelings we have towards the homeless are not enough, there are financial reasons why we all need to care. It hits each and every one of us in our pocketbooks.

The Homeless Hub’s report, The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 states that homelessness costs the Canadian economy $7.05 billion a year. These numbers include the cost of emergency shelters, social services, health care and corrections.

So, with over $7 billion being spent, doesn’t that mean that homeless people are being well taken care of? The simple answer to that question is no. The longer people are homeless, the more their physical and mental health declines and their risk of being a victim of crime increases. Also, studies show that even with the best intentions emergency services such as food banks and soup kitchens don’t provide homeless people with enough food to keep them from becoming malnourished.

The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 questions whether or not only relying on emergency services such as shelters and food programs is even cost effective. The report states, “… there is considerable evidence that investing in emergency services as a response to homelessness not only has a negative impact on health and well-being of the people who experience it, but is also expensive. For example a 2001 B.C. study indicated that it cost $30,000-$40,000 annually to support one homeless person and a 2006 study in Halifax notes that investments in social housing would generate a savings of 41 per cent.”

Relying on emergency services creates a band aid situation in which many of the same people are returning to use the services over and over again. Creating social housing, although vital, is just one of the solutions to homelessness. Identifying and addressing the gaps in services along with the coordination of services would go a long way toward reducing the long term cost of homelessness and make more efficient and effective use of the money now being spent.

The good news is that many of the provinces and cities in Canada are working toward ending homelessness by creating housing strategies. Until recently, the focus has been on homelessness in the larger urban centres but studies are now being done in smaller, more rural areas.

Clearwater has taken its first steps in this direction with Homelessness Partnering Strategy in which we are working to capture a picture of the state of homelessness in our area and then use this information to create a strategy of our own. This study will give us the opportunity to have an open discussion in our community and then work together to solve the problem of homelessness in Clearwater


For more information, call Charlotte or Wendy at 250.674.3530.