I've always admired people who work to improve the lives of some of the most troubled residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
But I also recognize that there's often intense competition for funding between groups in the area. And some of these organizations are significant employers.
To provide a snapshot into the size of these operations, I went to the Canada Revenue Agency website this morning to look at financial filings of some registered charities active in the neighbourhood.
I discovered that PHS Community Services Society—which provides housing and care for 1,200 people and manages the city's supervised injection site—generated $26 million in revenue last year. Nearly $18 million came from the federal and provincial government. (A relatively small amount, $15,984, came from municipal and regional governments.)
There were 202 full-time and 180 part-time positions at the charity.
Four employees of PHS were paid between $160,000 and $199,000 in 2011, according to its filing with the Canada Revenue Agency. Another two collected $120,000 to $159,999. The exact salaries aren't listed.
Union Gospel Mission and its satellite ministries offer free daily meals, groceries, clothing, and furniture. The charity operates four drop-in centres and alcohol- and drug-recovery programs, as well as educational training and employment counselling.
Last year, Union Gospel's revenues were $15.2 million. Only $29,000 came from governments. It had 176 full-time and 36 part-time positions in 2011.
Two employees of Union Gospel Mission were paid between $120,000 and $159,999. Another four received between $80,000 and $119,999.
Atira Women's Resource Society, which provides housing, advocacy, and support, generated $14.6 million in revenue in 2011. Of that, nearly $9 million came from the provincial government.
One employee was paid between $120,000 and $159,999, with another receiving between $80,000 and $119,999. There were 88 full-time positions and 136 part-time positions at Atira Women's Resource Society last year.
St. James Community Service Society provides meals, hospice care, housing, and adult-guardianship services to more than 2,000 people per year. In 2011, it generated revenues of $12.7 million, with $9.6 million coming from the provincial government.
Last year, there were 128 full-time and 78 part-time positions at St. James. One employee was paid between $120,000 and $159,999. Four others collected between $80,000 and $119,999.
RainCity Housing and Support Society provided three emergency shelter plus housing for people with mental illness and addictions in 2011, generating $13.5 million in revenue. Of that, $11.8 million came from various levels of government.
One RainCity employee was paid between $120,000 and $159,999, with two others collecting between $80,000 and $119,999. There were 91 full-time and 68 part-time positions.
Vancouver Native Housing Society, which operates 15 housing complexes, generated $8.2 million in revenue last year. There were 49 full-time and 20 part-time positions, with one person being paid between $80,000 and $119,999.
Vancouver Native Health Society—which runs a medical clinic, dental program, and other services—had $7.2 million in revenue last year. There were two employees who were paid between $80,000 and $119,999. There were 85 full-time positions and 35 part-time positions last year.
One of the smaller groups, the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, offers hot meals, showering facilities, nursing care, literacy programs, and referral services for survival sex workers in the area.
Last year, it generated revenues of nearly $1.1 million; just over $700,000 came from various governments.
There were 12 full-time and 33 part-time positions last year. One WISH employee was paid between $40,000 and $79,999 last year. All other full-timers received less than $40,000.
(Not all of the charities mentioned here conduct all of their activities in the Downtowntown Eastside.)
Meanwhile, Charity Intelligence Canada is a Toronto-based organization that investigates the amount of money that charities spend on services as opposed to on administration.
Last year, it chose WISH Drop-In Centre as one of its two "top picks" among women's charities.
It was the only Vancouver organization that made the list, which included 32 charities from other parts of Canada.
It's more expensive to ignore poverty
For many years, it has been apparent that while the cost of alleviating homelessness isn't cheap, it can be far more expensive for society to do nothing.
In 2001, a report for the B.C. government demonstrated that homeless people in its study cost, on average, 33 percent more than housed individuals in health-care, criminal-justice, and social-services costs.
"The findings of this exploratory research examining government costs for a small illustrative sample of homeless and housed individuals in Vancouver suggest that decent, adequate, supportive housing not only ends homelessness, but may reduce the use of costly government services and ultimately save money," the researchers reported.
In 2008, academics at SFU, UBC, and the University of Calgary reported in a more extensive study that each homeless person in B.C. costs taxpayers $55,000 in health-care, criminal-justice, and social-services costs.
In 2011, a study by SFU researchers concluded that substance abuse is "strongly associated with prolonged and persistent homelessness among people with mental disorders".
PHS, which is the largest of the charities mentioned in this story, specializes in providing homes for these hard-to-house individuals. While $26 million might sound like a lot of money, it's likely significantly less than what it would cost society to deal with these unfortunate people if this charity didn't exist.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.