Housing people who are homeless is a waste of tax payer money.
In a study of CHF-funded Housing First programs, researchers concluded that every $1 spent on Housing First is associated with $1.16 – $2.86 of savings to the public system. Given the $50 million spent annually on Housing First programs, this could result in savings of approximately $143 million in terms of nights in hospital, ER visits, and justice services. In short, keeping someone in homelessness costs our public system an awful lot more than finding them a home!
Tiny homes are the silver-bullet answer to homelessness.
People experiencing homelessness, just like you and I, come from an abundance of different backgrounds. No two stories are the same, and everyone has different needs. Tiny homes and other unique ideas can definitely be a solution to certain demographics, but certainly not all. In fact, there’s no one answer to the problem of homelessness, but solutions tend to be on more of a spectrum.
Some people need a lot of extra support to keep them in housing, such as if they have complex mental or physical health needs. Some people just need help with a damage deposit on a rental unit to begin their housing journey. Calgary’s approach attempts to meet clients where they are at.
Homeless people who own computers or cell phones are not poor enough to receive social assistance.
Most people experiencing homelessness do own cell phones, just like most of the rest of the population. Arguably, they are a necessity to modern life, and the options available today make them less of a luxury item and more of an important conduit to life on the streets. What’s more, people experiencing homelessness rarely have access to the newest model with the best plan – they tend to be very resourceful, and have phones or electronics that are passed down from family members, purchased at pawn shops or second hand stores and use pay-as-you-go plans.
People experiencing homelessness can use their phones to contact their social worker, find social services, email and text their friends and family, and for safety. As the existence of payphones dwindles, a cell phone can make the isolating experience of homelessness a little less lonely.
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International immigrants are the reason for homelessness in Calgary.
Every two years, Calgary participates in a Point in Time Count, where volunteers go out on a certain evening and survey those who are experiencing homelessness. Over time, these numbers can be used to help determine how homelessness is changing year after year. In 2018, 92% of those surveyed identified themselves as Canadian, leaving the remaining 8% immigrants or refugees.
Learn more about the Point-in-Time Count of homelessness here.
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Providing individuals experiencing homelessness with permanent supportive housing increases their dependency on the system.
All residents of permanent supportive housing buildings do pay rent, but their rate tends to be set according to their income level (typically 30%). When their income increases and they can pay more, their rate rises. Generally, people enjoy the autonomy that comes with being able to be self-sufficient, and if it’s appropriate, agency supports are provided to help a resident become self-sufficient over time.
However, sometimes their health issues prevent them from ever being able to pay market rent or have housing other than support. Helping to stabilize them reduces their use of more expensive public systems, such as hospitals, jails and emergency rooms.
Not all models rely entirely on public funds. Some of our partners have a small percentage of tenants who pay rent at a market rate. This means that there is an added source of funding for the agency, offsetting the subsidies provided to those who need them.
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It’s true, solutions to the problem of homelessness are complex. But just because they’re complex, doesn’t mean they don’t exist! In fact, there are many effective solutions in place in our city today: solutions that led to 9,707 people exiting the experience of homelessness and into permanent housing with supports within the last decade. This also means that there’s been a 32% per capita reduction in homelessness in Calgary: as our city grew exponentially, homelessness reduced. Almost 3 people per day exit homelessness in our city!
Calgary’s solution involves a big network of services that fall under what we call the homeless-serving system of care. It includes non-profits, government, mainstream systems like Alberta Health Services, Calgary Police Services and the Calgarian community. They all work together to ensure timely access to housing and support services to those that need them.
To learn more about Calgary’s solution to homelessness, check out our video.
Still need more facts and research? Our technical report is available here.
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Building permanent supportive housing will bring down the property value in my neighbourhood.
When we talk about permanent supportive housing, we mean an apartment building that is home to people who need income assistance and 24/7 support to keep them healthy and safe. Sometimes it can be awkward to welcome strangers as neighbours, especially when we don’t understand their situation and background.
In many cities, Calgary included, there is a reluctance to welcome permanent supported housing for our most vulnerable citizens into neighbourhoods. Lots of us think that supportive housing is a good addition to our society, but we don’t want it near our own community. We call this characterization “NIMBYism”, an acronym for “Not In My Back Yard”.
Many believe the presence of permanent supportive housing will bring down the property value of the surrounding houses in the neighbourhood. But, according to Calgary-specific research, this isn’t the case! Avison Young looked at the prices of residential properties in close proximity to two buildings that PSH builder and owner HomeSpace owns with a partner agency. They found no negative impact on residential property values.
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People experiencing homelessness choose to be homeless.
There are factors that make someone more likely to experience homelessness, such as social isolation, addictions or financial problems, but every experience is completely unique.
Lots of factors are outside of an individual’s control, like the state of the economy, a lack of affordable housing or income supports, or a lack of system supports, like help after graduating out of foster care or leaving the hospital. They may have experienced personal trauma, like the onset of mental illness, family breakdown or an abusive relationship that leaves them without a stable home.
As you can see, the pathways into and out of homelessness are complex. That’s why Calgary’s approach aims to meet people where they are at and provide flexible programs to address their unique needs.
To learn more about Calgary’s solution to homelessness, check out our video.
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