Supportive housing is permanent affordable housing, with some form of care component that is designed to help people maintain their housing. It includes a cost-effective combination of affordable housing and services that help people live more stable, productive lives.
Homeless people use more government services: In 2001, the British Columbia government 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 combined service and shelter costs of the homeless people in the study 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.
· It costs more to house homeless people: For example, it costs per night:
o In a provincial correctional facility – $155-$250
o Psychiatric hospital – $380 average
o Emergency homeless shelter, which included meals and services – $60-$85
o Detox centers $80-$185
o Mental health residential facilities – $140-$191
In contrast, supportive housing is cheaper per day:
o Enhanced self-contained apartment with support on site – $67-$88
o Self-contained apartment – mini-suite/bachelor – $14-$20
o Self-contained apartment – no support – $25-$35
A similar study conducted in Calgary in 2006 concluded that the cost of homelessness was as high as $100,000 per homeless person.
Supportive housing works well for people who face complex challenges such as poverty and chronic health and social conditions. Poverty prevents people from obtaining or maintaining housing that is appropriate and stable. Individuals and families with chronic health and social conditions such as mental illness, HIV/AIDS, substance use issues, and histories of domestic violence, trauma, and/or out of home placements (prison, hospitals, foster care, etc.) are often episodically disabled and require stable housing that is tightly linked to services.
One study showed that supportive housing reduced the number of hospital visits by 87%.
People who live in supportive housing sign leases and pay rent, just like their neighbours. Supportive housing is a proven, cost-effective way to end homelessness for people who face the most complex challenges. It provides homeless people with a way out of high-cost crisis care and emergency housing and gets them back into their own homes and communities. In this way, supportive housing not only improves the lives of its residents but also generates significant public savings.