Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The high cost of homelessness

with 6 comments

Every homeless person costs system $55,000, an amount that could buy supported housing for each of them

Lori Culbert, files from Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, March 21, 2008

Once again an academic social science study supports what most of us had suspected for a very long time. The right wing politicians have stuck to their discredited social policies for far too long. The problem is that the reality does not coincide with their preferred theories.

Sadly many of us have been propping up the failures of our politicians – with the best of intentions. But I am surprised it has taken us this long to work out the food banks made cuts to welfare workable. That the huge amounts of charitable efforts with the homeless have simply perpetuated the injustice of our failed housing market and the point blank refusal of governments of all political shades and levels to acknowledge their responsibilities. The people who work with the homeless and the distressed typically burn out themselves. They work ridiculously long hours for poor salaries, and they feel responsible for the failings of the system. We leave front line mental health care to police officers.

Astonishing to me is the arrogance of the conservative – who is also so often these days a fundamentalist Christian too – who asserts that government should not get involved – except to lock up law breakers. As though prisons have ever solved any social issue. But you will find many people whose knee jerk response is to every problem is a tax cut and “law and order”.

The study argues homelessness has been increasing since the 1980s because of rising inflation, rents and unemployment, along with a decline in social assistance and cutbacks in government housing programs.

You might also want to think about what a lower than poverty level minimum wage does too – and a hospital system that relies on lotteries to buy basic equipment. Or a government that thinks casinos are a good way to increase revenues.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman was also not available for comment today.

To see the complete study go to:

Written by Stephen Rees

March 22, 2008 at 7:43 am

Posted in health, housing

6 Responses

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  1. great item mr. rees as I was saying to christy clark – its cheaper to house people then to bail on em- de-tox the drugees- provide support OUT THE ZOO KNOWN AS VAN-EAST SIDE- with mixed social housing units –low income families-a few seniors-and a few young people- the mix is very important!
    also important to spread these units around- abbotsford- langley-tri-cities -hell the homeless come from everywhere- so if all cities should provide space!———and for all you campbell like dinosaurs– I told you so!

    grant g

    March 22, 2008 at 9:08 am

  2. sorry I am just a little testy lately—————-I tend to vent–what I really want to do is wash campbell and falcon`s mouth out with soap! then put them over my knee and spank them for all that fibbing! ! and if that doesn`t work ,RING THEIR NECKS —–signed…………………..the last dented can at the food bank!

    grant g

    March 22, 2008 at 10:38 am

  3. We’ve abandoned the poor, and people who would have been adequately housed twenty years ago are now homeless. (For a great look at the root causes of homelessness in the US, I suggest this fact sheet: ) As funding goes up for McKinney Vento programs for temporary shelter for the homeless, it goes down in HUD funding for affordable housing for the poor and disabled. And it’s not a proportional decline — we cut millions from housing while adding only tens of thousands to homeless programs. It’s a heartbreaking thing.



    March 23, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  4. Sorry for the late posting on this, but this phrase caught my eye:

    “Astonishing to me is the arrogance of the conservative – who is also so often these days a fundamentalist Christian too – who asserts that government should not get involved – except to lock up law breakers.”

    I wish I could deny this, but it is true. Apart from a few notable exceptions we ‘Christians’ seem to have forgotten – read: ‘ignored’- the bible’s clear, repeated command to love the poor (Not to mention look after the world we live in, love our neighbours, and many more)

    Please accept an apology from one who shares a belief in the ‘fundemantal’ sayings and promises of Christ, who himself was homeless, but feels a deep shame at the arrogant and plainly unbiblical comments of some who call themselves ‘Christian’.

    Andy in Germany

    March 24, 2008 at 12:10 am

  5. I hope Andy that you do not take my remark to be an aspersion on all Christians. I trust that my recent posting of an EGM resolution of the Unitarian Church in Vancouver shows that there are clearly people who do have a different world view that Mr Harper and Mr Bush.

    I also greatly admire the churches – and others – who work so hard as charitable organisations to try and tackle some of our social problems. But they should not have to do quite so much since most of the problems I see here were deliberately created by governments deciding to abandon policies that were working. Not that they were perfect, by any means, but not so long ago there were no homeless people on our streets. And there was no need for a Food Bank. And people on welfare did not have to spend all day scouring garbage bins for returnable bottles and cans so they could buy essentials.

    Indeed one of my least favourite Christians was Mrs Thatcher, who loved to tell people that the Good Samaritan had to have been wealthy in order for the poor to be helped. And she certainly did her best to make sure there were plenty of poor people who needed charity. I say “was” because she is less active these days and many others have come forward to exceed her lack of humanity.

    Stephen Rees

    March 24, 2008 at 7:47 am

  6. It is sad to read these articles and put together just how wealthy our western civilization really is, and to see on the News Hour the chronic critics of modest increases in taxes who also drive high-end cars and buy seasons tickets worth hundreds for sports and music events.

    The SROs in downtown are appalling and I believe a new housing model should be promoted by government. It’s too easy to glibly throw out comments to the cameras like so many of the radical protesters out there to build social housing, but not look at the underlying issues.

    The housing must be accompanied by services geared first to those most in need, like homeless addicts with mental health challenges. Some kind of self-contained apartment of reasonble size will help establish privacy once one receives adequate care. A controlled entry, a kitchen on the main floor, and an office + exam room for visiting nurses / doctors and an in-house social worker could go a long ways to stabilizing many people’s lives and in fostering hope for the future.

    It’s true that the Christians in the trenches are for the better part liberal-minded people. Most right wing conservative Christians are too busy enforcing with booming voices the old testiment eye-for-an-eye and anti-gay schtick and spraying thier poofy hair to pay much attention to love thy neighbour principles. However, I make an exception for one friend who became a conservative minister but who also runs a program in Manila helping bario kids directly with healthcare and not preaching at them.


    March 26, 2008 at 2:15 pm

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