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:
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.