Originally Broadcast March
NO WAY HOME
THE COST OF HOMELESSNESS
While many Canadians feel empathy for the homeless,
they don’t see it as a problem costing them much
more than the few dollars they may give to panhandlers.
This is an erroneous conclusion.
A rough estimate suggests Canadians are spending about
$1-billion a year in taxes to deal with the homelessness
Most experts agree that homeless shelters are a band-aid
solution, as they usually offer little more than a bed
and hot meal. The City of Toronto and the Ontario government
spend roughly $120-million a year to fund the 65 permanent
shelters and Out of the Cold programs in Toronto.
The city’s per diem formula is $53 per bed per night.
The shelters are funded depending on their usage –
the more residents, the more heads, the more money they
receive from the city.
Difficult to assess a full
cost: It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what
it costs to maintain a large homeless population. Homeless
people use services to varying degrees. For example,
one study revealed that 15% of the people staying in
Toronto’s shelter system use 50% of the resources.
That’s because this 15% are the hardcore homeless
– often chronic long-term people who are using
the shelter system all the time, as compared to most
homeless who use it a short period of time before finding
a place to live.
Other chronic members of the homeless population use
publicly-funded services very rarely, living outdoors
all year round and being self-sufficient financially,
earning money through panhandling.
Homeless people use more goverment
services: In 2001, the BC
Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services
published a study examining the causes and effects of
homelessness in BC. It's one of the few studies that attempts
to put a dollar figure on what it costs taxpayers to support
the homeless population. It found the following:
It cost the BC government 33% more to provide health
care, criminal justice and social services to a homeless
person than to a socially housed unemployed individual
($24,000 a year, compared to $18,000 a year).
The average homeless person uses $4,714 a year
in healthcare compared to the average Canadian
citizen at $2,633.
The combined service and shelter costs of the homeless
people ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 on average per
person for one year (including the cost of staying in
a homeless shelter). In contrast, the combined costs
of service and housing for housed individuals ranged
from $22,000 to $28,000 per person per year, assuming
they stayed in supportive housing.
For homeless individuals, the major category of cost
that they entail is in the criminal justice system,
and averaged $11,410 a year. The average taxpayer spends
$362 a year to maintain the Canadian justice system.
The cost for providing social services for a homeless
person was $7,893 a year. On average, Canadian taxpayers
spent $179 a year on social services.
The health care costs of homeless person averaged
$4,714 a year. An average Canadian citizen uses $2,633
per year in publicly financed health care services.
It costs more to house homeless
people: When it came to housing, Canadians spend
an average of $11,200 a year on their own shelter. In
contrast, housing the homeless is calculated on a per
diem basis (The BC study showed shelter costs ranged
from $6,000 to $16,000 a year). For example, it costs:
SHELTERS ARE EXPENSIVE
It costs $60-80 to house someone in an emergency
shelter and less than $35 in supportive housing.
Per night in a provincial correctional facility - $155-$250
Psychiatric hospital - $380 average
Emergency homeless shelter, which included meals and
services - $60-$85
Detox centers $80-$185
Mental health residential facilities - $140-$191
In contrast, supportive housing is cheaper:Enhanced self-contained apartment with support on
site - $67-$88
Self-contained apartment – mini-suite/bachelor
Self-contained apartment - no support - $25-$35
It has been estimated that to virtually eradicate
homelessness, it would cost all levels of government
in Canada $3.5 billion to achieve this, which would
go to pay for affordable housing, income support (like
welfare) and some support services.
RETURN TO: MAIN
- WHO ARE HOMELESS
YOUTH? - LIFE
ON THE STREET
THE HAZARDS OF HOMELESSNESS - THE
CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS
THE COST OF HOMELESSNESS