The Cost of Homelessness

Oct 2020 | Homelessness

Our current response to homelessness is failing our most vulnerable community members. We’re responding re-actively, trying to manage the situation rather than addressing the root causes of homelessness and affordable housing. We rely heavily on providing emergency services including health-care, shelters and corrections. This is an expensive and ineffective way of addressing a social problem that is getting worse and worse.

Many people believe that we continue to respond re-actively, rather than pro-actively because this approach is less expensive. This is not the case. Our current response costs the taxpayer more than a policy of ending homelessness.

Homelessness is expensive

In Canada, the average cost for a person struggling with homelessness could cost the taxpayer $53,144 per year 1. This includes:
• health services,
• substance-use treatments,
• emergency room visits,
• police interaction,
• incarceration,
• shelters and supportive housing

Not only is this approach more expensive, it’s not addressing the complex issues that contribute to homelessness such as:
• lack of affordable housing,
• the foster care system
• physical and mental health issues,
• substance-use issues and many more.

Ending homelessness saves taxpayers’ money

The Housing First model moves people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent homes with no pre-conditions. Once housed, people receive additional services and supports as needed.

The average cost to house a person in Canada using the Housing First model is $14,177-$22,257 per year1. The lowest cost is for a moderate needs person who requires minimal additional supports and services, and the highest cost is for people who require significant support.
It’s cheaper to house people experiencing homelessness and provide the supports and services they need to stabilize their lives than it is to continue our current reactive responses.

When we focus on ending homelessness by addressing its root causes and preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place, we spend much less money, while supporting our most vulnerable neighbour

1 Distasio, Jino. (2017, October 9). Canadians spending big money on homelessness without addressing its root causes. CBC News.

Cost Analysis Of Homelessness | The Homeless Hub

sharing facts about homelessness infographic
info-graphic for lack of affordable housing

Did you know? Campaign

There are many myths and unknowns about Nanaimo’s homelessness crisis. These misconceptions impact how we respond to those experiencing homelessness, as individuals and as a community. Nanaimo Homeless Coalition’s Did you know? campaign strives to educate the public about the many factors that contribute to homelessness. Each month, we’ll explore a topic around homelessness to help inform the community. October’s theme is “The Cost of Homelessness”.

Resources to help you

Do You Need Help?

If you’re looking for mental health support, shelter, addictions treatment, food banks and more, BC 211 can help.

Or search HelpSeeker for access to over 770 services, programs and resources in Nanaimo.