When there are more foreclosed homes than individuals living on the street, you know there’s something wrong with ‘the system’. Cities like Dallas, Texas and Honolulu, Hawaii have implemented creative concepts to help remedy the homelessness crisis in the States, but until recently, no major Canadian city had successfully alleviated its homelessness issue.
But that has changed in the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta, where all 60,000 residents now sleep soundly in a safe environment with a roof. Thanks to a new policy in the Canadian city, housing is mandated for everyone who has spent 10 days in a shelter or on the streets.
Now, when officials of the city learn of an individual living in these circumstances, they move him or her (or the family) into a house or apartment. Mayor of the town, Ted Clugston, says 10 days is the absolute limit an individual may live on the streets – even though the city is normally quick to find housing for homeless individuals.
Medicine Hat’s “Housing First” plan ensures every individual is off the streets before tackling the underlying causes of homelessness. Utah adopted the same model to reduce its homelessness by 91% in ten years.
Clugston told CBC News:
Housing First puts everything on its head. It used to be, ‘You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues. 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.
In 2009, the city began building new homes for the homeless and has since moved nearly 900 people off the streets. Really, it all comes down to economics: An individual living on the streets costs the city about $100,000, compared to about $20,000 to house the individual. Since adopting Housing First, police calls about homeless people and emergency room visits have decreased dramatically.
When a city opts to care for its most troubled citizens, a bold statement is made about the people of the town and the leaders who manage it.
“This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people,” said Clugston.
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