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.