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Cost of Homelessness in Canada

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The cost of homelessness to Canadians is estimated at $7 billion annually, according to the 2013 report The State of Homelessness in Canada. The estimate is based on the cost of reacting to homelessness instead of addressing the root causes of it and taking a proactive approach. Canada's reactionary solutions are expensive, typically involving a greater use of emergency services – law enforcement, courts and prisons, emergency healthcare, longer hospital stays, emergency shelters, etc.

There are also longer term costs associated with chronic homelessness. Those who spend longer periods on the street have a higher likelihood of suffering mental and physical health problems, addictions and disabilities.

Some useful comparisons provided in the report illustrate the higher costs that result from not taking affirmative action. For example, the average monthly cost of housing in facilities and institutions is as follows:

– Hospital bed: $10,900
– Provincial jail: $4,333
– Shelter bed: $1,932
- Rent supplements: $701
– Social Housing: $199
Also worth noting is a report conducted by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction. The 2008 study, Housing and Support for Adults with Severe Addictions and/or Mental Illness, estimates B.C. taxpayers yearly contribution to homelessness is $644.3 million.
A 2001 study conducted by the B.C. government's Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services found that:
- 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 housing a homeless people ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 on average 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 if they stayed in supportive housing. 
- The cost for providing social services for a homeless person was $7,893 a year.
- The health care costs of homeless person averaged $4,714 a year. An average Canadian citizen uses $2,633 per year in publicly financed health care services. 


Well being of society affected by homelessness

Society also pays for homelessness in a less tangible way. Homelessness can be described as an extreme form of social exclusion and an indicator of social injustice. Homeless individuals are excluded because they are prevented or limited in their ability to participate in social, economic, political and cultural aspects of society. This places these individuals at a disadvantage in terms of life chances. Not only is homelessness wasteful and costly, it creates a lack of social cohesion.