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.
- B.C. could learn from Alberta how to save on costs of homelessness: expert (metronews.ca)
- Housing the homeless is cheaper, more effective than status quo: study (o.canada.com)
- Atlanta aims to end veteran homelessness (stripes.com)
- Infections Among Homeless Could Fuel Wider Epidemics (nlm.nih.gov)
- VA Grant to Pay for Homeless Veterans Housing in St. Pete (offthebase.wordpress.com)