MLAs silent as Abbotsford homeless shuffle down the street to former squatters' camp after eviction

Research shows ignoring homelessness is more costly than addressing the issue

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Some homeless people squatting on Gladys Avenue in Abbotsford have gone back to their former campsite after being kicked out of their makeshift homes this morning (September 12).

      In an absurd twist, they moved about 25 metres down the road to the spot where the City of Abbotsford had previously laid chicken manure to get them to leave.

      Call it the homeless shuffle.

      The city claimed it needed to evict them from the Gladys Avenue site because of health concerns.

      There are better approaches

      Today on the CBC Radio Almanac show, I heard a segment on Dignity Village.

      It's a much more imaginative way for dealing with the homeless than spending taxpayer dollars forcing them to pack their bags and move less than a block away every few weeks.

      With a Portland city grant to provide sewage and water hookups, Dignity Village creates a community for the homeless for up to two years.

      They have a TV in a common area, propane to heat water for showers for more than 60 people per day, and access to a computer to look for work. 

      Pets are welcome, and port-o-potties deal with the sanitation needs.

      Homelessness costs oodles of money

      Extensive research has demonstrated that homelessness is expensive for taxpayers.

      A 2008 paper by Simon Fraser University researchers on the housing needs of adults with severe addictions and/or mental illness outlined this in stark terms.

      Here were some of the conclusions, which I've posted word-for-word from the report:

      • If we focus on the absolutely homeless, non-housing service costs amount to about $644.3 million per year across the province. In other words, the average street homeless adult with SAMI [severe addictions and/or mental illness] in B.C. costs the public system in excess of $55,000 per year. Provision of adequate housing and supports is estimated to reduce this cost to $37,000 per year. This results in an overall "cost avoidance" of about $211 million per year. 

      • The "cost avoidance" in health care and provincial corrections institution costs are more than sufficient to offset the capital costs and the costs of providing housing supports to those who are absolutely homeless.

      • A capital investment of $784 million ($31 million in annualized capital expenditure) is needed to provide adequate housing to the 11,750 adults with SAMI who are absolutely homeless. An additional $148 million per year is needed to provide housing-related support services.

      • In total, the annualized capital and housing support costs for providing adequate housing and support to the absolutely homeless with SAMI is approximately $179 million (annualized capital cost of $31 million plus annual housing and support cost of $148 million). This cost is fully avoided by the $211 million "cost avoidance" in health care, corrections custody, and emergency shelter costs, resulting in a net cost avoidance of about $33 million per year to the province.

      When the City of Abbotsford forces homeless people to move 25 metres down the street and the provincial government does nothing to provide housing, this will eventually cost taxpayers more money in health-care, policing, and prison costs.

      Why won't MLAs speak up?

      Premier Christy Clark was re-elected with a promise that she would be an effective guardian of the public purse.

      Why aren't the three B.C. Liberal MLAs from Abbotsford—Mike de Jong, Darryl Plecas, and Simon Gibson—raising hell about this?

      After all, De Jong is the finance minister. Plecas is a criminologist who knows how to interpret research. And Gibson has taught in the University of Fraser Valley school of business and led workshops at the Justice Institute.

      All three claim to be advocates for taxpayers, but they're not taking any high-profile action or investing any political capital to constructively address the situation on Gladys Avenue in Abbotsford.

      De Jong, in particular, made hay during the election campaign about how his opponents planned to waste money.

      Surely, they're capable of reading the SFU research report (the link is above) or any of the work of Michael Shapcott or numerous other housing experts across the country.

      Comments

      8 Comments

      Forest

      Sep 12, 2013 at 4:18pm

      Good questions raised here. The answer I'm afraid is depressing: for this government, 'fiscal responsibility' has continuously meant taking away, not giving, even if such giving means actually saving hundreds of thousands of tax-paid dollars. (Unless, of course, the giving is to a corporate entity, such as mining or private power projects. Then it's perfectly acceptable).

      0 0Rating: 0

      Billy Bones

      Sep 12, 2013 at 5:52pm

      Forest raise good points from a good article. Unfortunately our MLAs are deaf and blind if people actually need help. That's because poor people n our society can't be heard. MLAs only know when big money talks and MLA lives have been far too easy for too long. No such thing as MLA compassion or kindness, all the while hiding behind fake Christianity in their little valley bible belt while getting the "Christian vote". It's the BC Liberal way. I've seen it all before too many times.

      0 0Rating: 0

      steve

      Sep 12, 2013 at 6:40pm

      The homeless are not "people" as far as politicians are concerned. After all,they do not pay taxes.

      0 0Rating: 0

      Arthur Vandelay

      Sep 13, 2013 at 6:59am

      Decision makers are not acting on research reports because they are just that, untested theories based on research. In general, once you ease access to a huge service like free housing for a targeted segment, you will find that there will be an influx of way more people claimng to be from that segment that will soon overwhelm the system. This is what happened when the harcourt NDP regime opened up easier access to welfare roles. In no time, 10% of the population was on welfare.

      A more practical response may be to see what other jurisdictions in the world are doing with this problem and see what has worked and not worked for them rather than constantly reinventing the wheel based on the latest research and theories.

      0 0Rating: 0

      $565 Million Leaky Tarp

      Sep 13, 2013 at 10:17am

      Yet this Neo-Con lying sack of shit Liberal governing party puts Corporate Welfare before the welfare of British Colombians.

      1. $565 Million for a Leaky Tarp Roof paid to Private Contractors,

      2. The BC Rail Scandal for the benefit of a Corporation,

      3. Tens of billions on the Owe-lympics

      4. Off Balance Sheet Billions in above Market Rate Guaranteed Hydro Power purchase contracts aka Corporate Welfare.

      etc etc

      The Con-servatives (BC Liberals) putting the CON in CON-servative :)

      0 0Rating: 0

      Forest

      Sep 13, 2013 at 11:48am

      Arthur V. - Re: your request for "a more practical response". Is this just what Portland - as cited in the article above - has done?

      0 0Rating: 0

      DT

      Sep 13, 2013 at 11:48am

      And when these tax-payer-provided "residences" need to be completely overhauled every six months, since such housing is NEVER maintained properly and ALWAYS is destroyed by the residents, how much does THAT cost? No numbers for that mentioned anywhere.

      Also unmentioned is the medical/legal costs of keeping mentally ill people in regular housing. They need special facilities, not just an apartment. This report just assumes that if you build it, it will remain in perfect condition and will fix all individual problems for everyone.

      Those living in that filthy, trash-strewn, toilet-less area should be separated into two groups: those who cannot handle daily life through no fault of their own, and the loser freeloaders who just want society to pay their way. Funny, the reporters can always find a lucid, sane, well-informed person to interview. Why can't such a person get off their ass and get a job? Why bother when the gov will make decent, hard-working people pay for lazy losers?

      0 0Rating: 0

      gilbert marks

      Sep 13, 2013 at 6:44pm

      @DT

      "Why can't such a person get off their ass and get a job? Why bother when the gov will make decent, hard-working people pay for lazy losers?"

      Actually there is a long list of overqualified foreign workers just waitin' for the word from your employer to takeover your job for minimum wage.

      0 0Rating: 0