Over the past three years, we have spent a substantial amount of time and effort learning about Housing First and how it could impact our community. We have held meetings with various government ministers, and visited various municipalities across our country, learning from both successes and challenges to make sure we are equipped to end homelessness in Regina.
In many cases, the conversations boil down to a clear point. Do we invest in ending homelessness when we have a budgetary surplus? Or do we follow the evidence and invest in ending homelessness because of a combination of human compassion and the established cost savings it produces?
We have done some significant work with individuals who access health services 2-3 times each day, interact with law enforcement once every 3-4 days, and spend time in cells or corrections each year. These are significant costs, and they add up to far more than the investment required to not only eliminate these expenditures, but to free up law enforcement and health resources from being our community responses to homelessness.
As a group of service providers, we often talk about a number of about $7 million being a key annual figure to achieve what is known as “functional zero” homelessness – no people experiencing chronic homelessness and resources in place to respond to future experiences of homelessness. Currently, we have $1 million from the federal government invested in our community, and no additional provincial or municipal investment.
While there is no proactive engagement from the province in providing funds for services aimed at ending homelessness, the costs to the province are high. We cannot access all data for a variety of privacy and confidentiality issues, but an ambulance ride is $245, an ER triage $323 and a daily cost for people admitted to the hospital is $1,400. Recently, one of our employees attended First Aid/CPR training where the trainer outlined that the top 17 users of ambulatory care cost over $1 million each year alone. The truth is, continued inaction in ending homelessness costs far more than a proactive investment in ending homelessness.
We have a well-established model that NGOs, government ministries/services, and police are in support of. We have a country full of program data that proves that Housing First and other investments work. We have national and local experts engaged in implementing these systems here in Regina, and we have 492 intakes worth of people that show we aren’t doing nearly enough.
So what’s missing? Government leadership. Our budget is $14.28 billion, and we need $7 million each year to ensure that no one in our community spends their life without a home. That percentage, in case you’re wondering, is .0005% of our annual budget.
Imagine… a city without homelessness. We do, and it’s closer than you might think.