A city in Canada has (nearly) ended homelessness

'It costs about $20,000 a year to house someone. If they're on the street, it can cost up to $100,000 a year'

Sophie McIntyre
Friday 15 May 2015 15:50

Following a pledge made back in 2009, the Canadian city of Medicine Hat in southern Alberta has declared it is now close to ending homelessness.

The city's mayor, Ted Clugston, said: "we have said we are on the verge of doing it and hope to declare it sometime in the year 2015."

According to the city’s Mayor, who featured in a recent CBC radio interview, no one has to spend more than 10 days in an emergency shelter or on the streets, because the authorities provide the homeless with housing as and when they need it.

"We're pretty much able to meet that standard today. Even quicker, actually, sometimes," he told CBC's As It Happens host, Carol Off.

A homeless man begs for change in London

As a by-product of the policy, demand for emergency rooms has gone down and fewer drug-related incidents have been reported to police.

Mayor Clugston, who admitted that he was not always a fan of the policy, said:

"If you can get somebody off the street, it saves the emergency room visits, it saves the police, it saves the justice system — and so when you add up all those extra costs ... you can buy a lot of housing for that amount of money".

The Mayor described the old policy style: "It used to be, 'You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues."

Michelle Obama serving at a homeless soup kitchen in Washington in 2010

He now suggests this is unrealistic: "If you're addicted to drugs, it's going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you're sleeping under a park bench," he said.

The Mayor has not always supported the policy, however, and has admitted that he campaigned against the initiative when it was originally introduced back in 2019.

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