Tag Archive for study

It’s More Expensive To Do Nothing About Homelessness in Canada

There is a very interesting study that was recently released in Canada. The findings may provide some insight into the issues of homelessness we face here in the US.

The substantive report (150 pages of it) analyzed the costs of homelessness, including oft-forgotten peripherals like emergency medical expenses and policing. It then compared them to the cost of implementing services and programs designed to combat the problem.

Via The Vancouver Sun:

The estimated annual cost of $55,000 per homeless person takes into consideration the high risk of infectious diseases. The study says some individuals can be slow to accept treatment because they don’t recognize their mental illness, and may circulate through the court system because of a need to get drugs and food.

The study argues that if housing and support were offered to these people, it would cost the system much less – just $37,000 a year.

The report calculated that a capital investment of $784 million is needed to provide adequate housing to the 11,750 homeless people, and a further $148 million per year is required for housing-related support services.

But the study argues that after removing what the province is paying for health care, jail and shelters, and by spreading the capital costs out over several years, taxpayers could ultimately stand to save nearly $33 million annually.

The interesting part is how well these findings complement the research already done on juvenile incarceration and the incarceration of women. In our documentary, It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing, we examined the fiscal and societal gains that can be attained by implementing rehabilitative programs. They are substantive and invite and obvious parallel to the Canadian study’s findings on homelessness.

Another common thread between the two subjects is the recurrence of mental illness and substance abuse as part of the equation. These factors, if not addressed, tend to spiral out of control. Those subject to them can find themselves on a downward path that can be counteracted with the correct therapy and support programs. (On a personal note I know two people who used programs like that to get a grip on things while fighting those battles. They are now well-respected professionals in our community.)

I don’t know of any studies of this nature going on stateside, but it might be worthwhile to encourage it. Our own look at similar fiscal waste, and the human impact it has, was presented in the documentary It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing.

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Study Shows One Third of Young Americans Have Been Arrested, and the Numbers are Increasing

Day One hundred and sixty-two: EscapeeIn the online version of the journal Pediatrics from December 19 a study was released which share some disheartening and disturbing news. By the time they reach age 23, one third of American youth have been arrested at least once (this count excludes minor traffic violations).  In 1965 it was 22 percent.

Genevra Pittman, of Reuters brings us the comments of Robert Brame of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who was one of the team analyzing the data:

Arrests in adolescents are especially worrisome, he told Reuters Health, because many repeat offenders start their ‘criminal career’ at a young age.

The researchers said it seems that the criminal justice system has taken to arresting both the young and old more than it did in the past, when fines and citations might have been given to some people who are now arrested.

‘If (police) find kids that are intoxicated or they have pulled over someone intoxicated… now, nine times out of 10 they’re going to make an arrest,’ Wright told Reuters Health.

‘We do have to question if arrest is an appropriate intervention in all circumstances, or if we need to rethink some of the policies we have enacted.’

While some might argue that harsher enforcement can ameliorate the crime, in truth it creates additional problems in the long term. Keep in mind as you read the following that a police record is an especially large cross to bear for minority juveniles. Brame’s assessment here is even more true for that segment of the population.

He pointed out that young people who have an arrest on their record might have more trouble getting jobs in the future. It’s one thing if that’s because they were involved in a violent crime, he continued, but another if their offence was non-violent, like drinking underage or smoking marijuana.

‘Arrest does have major social implications for people as they transition from adolescence to adulthood,’Wright said.

The study notes the importance of identifying major common causes of offending behavior, which can include physical or emotional abuse, untreated psychiatric disorders, and substance abuse issues. Carrie Gann at ABC News notes that the study suggests that pediatricians are a first line of defense for observing and identifying these issues with young patients. In addition they are well placed to both counsel children and provide resources to parents.

One of the problems faced by our broken juvenile justice system is the massive influx of new faces. In many cases the suspicion that arrests on technicalities are made just to “get them into the system,” seem worth investigating. At a time when the goal must be moving more offenders into rehabilitative programs it makes sense to look at arrest rates and see how they feed the monster.

Image Source: Insulinde on Flickr, used under it’s Creative Commons license