Multi-million dollar homeless elimination plan unveiled

A long-awaited report from the city's Journey Home task force says the cost of ending homelessness will hit $47 million over the next five years.

That's split into capital for new long-term housing, assistance programs for people at risk, and the operation of a new agency to implement the new plans.

Dr. Alina Turner was hired by the city as a consultant to help lead the task force, and presented to council on Monday.

She says it'll cost about $18 million to build 110 specific housing units.

"It's long-term housing, so people don't go in there and are told 'welcome to your home, you're out of here in three months.' That's not conducive to creating healthy communities, and stabilizing a very complex population," she said.

"It's not reasonable to expect them to graduate - they're going to need supports for the forseeable future, unfortunately. And some of this long-term housing becomes their palliative care - it becomes the place where they die."

Turner made clear to council that the city isn't expected to put up all that cash, as grants from the other two levels of government are becoming ripe for the taking.

Turner says the majority of the cost is for housing support programs, and that helping people financially can actually save money in resources down the road.

"It might be giving somebody $200 because they're short on rent this month. So you're able to provide the $200, but that person as a result, doesn't come into your shelter system and use that bed that's considerably more expensive," she said.

"So that prevention intervention has huge cost benefits."

She says even in broader terms, spending money now will save on future emergency response.

"If you (City) kept doing what you're currently doing, your police, your health, your shelters, and your bylaw are going to add up to about $100 million over the next five years," she said.

"If you house and support them, as we propose, those same people are going to give you a cost reduction to those same public systems, of $50 million."

Turner presented statistics stating that for every dollar invested in ending homelessness, two dollars is saved in future emergency response costs.

The other main component of the plan is for the city to establish a new agency that will effectively operate the new strategy, as well as look for ways to raise more money.

Council had already approved $75,000 to fund the new plan this year, and approved an additional $50,000 on Monday.

The draft plan was presented Monday, with a final version coming in June.