(Wolf Depner/News staff)

Costs of homelessness far outweighs cost of housing says advocate

Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay spend millions on homeless camps

In the last three years the city halls of Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria have all come out with various estimations of the costs associated with tent city homeless camps.

On Wednesday Saanich confirmed a total of between $746,000 and $923,500 in costs associated with the Regina Park tent city. The estimate doesn’t include Saanich’s legal costs spent taking the occupants to B.C. Supreme Court. Saanich didn’t break down the specific costs but said the money went to policing, the remediation of the park, storage for campers’ gear and a hygiene station with showers and toilets near municipal hall.

Victoria estimated its costs for Super Intent City on the courthouse lawn were more than $1.6 million well before the province stepped in. The province later reported a $3 million total to ‘remediate’ the courthouse lawn. Oak Bay said it accrued about $10,000 worth of costs after the roaming tent city spent three weeks at three different parts (one week per) in Oak Bay.

With totals well into the millions, it’s got social housing advocates shaking their heads.

This is nothing new said Bernie Pauly, an advocate of homelessness and a professor in University of Victoria’s School of Nursing, adding homelessness always costs more than the fractured systems currently in place.

“It’s so incredible to watch the same issues come around that we’ve been cycling through for a decade, nevertheless we need to keep addressing them,” Pauly said. “Our government is not investing in evidence-based solutions, they are making poor investments. The tent city costs could be providing rents, could be providing modular housing and other interim supports.”

Related: Final tally for Saanich homeless camp nears $1 million

Related: Weekly Mount Doug picnickers leave heap of waste

Little has changed since the Canadian Homelessness Research Network published its 2012 report, The Real Cost of Homelessness, except that the costs have risen, Pauly added.

The report found the housing someone in the housing first model costs about $22,000 per year. That’s about half of the reported $50,000 per year that it costs to maintain the supports of policing, hospital, and social work for someone who is living homeless.

The costs come from responding to homelessness in tent cities through legal action and police, as well as shelters, which are all cost more than simply providing housing yet add solve nothing, Pauly noted.

“I’m not an economist but it makes sense to me as a researcher, as a nurse, to know that when someone is homeless it costs more to [support them] in terms of money, and it costs more in terms of the impact on their own health and quality in life,” Pauly said.

Ashley Mollison from Alliance Against Displacement has been vocal in her criticism that Saanich is criminalizing homelessness by totalling up the money.

“Take the money spent on rousing people from parks every morning, 24-7 surveillance and tent city patrols, 75 cops to tear down a tent city, and put it into creating spaces where poor people can feel welcome,” Mollison said. “How about community centers that don’t cost money, access to bathrooms and storage, land for housing or structures until there is housing, etc.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

tent city

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Recent arrests skim surface of Victoria’s human trafficking problem

Port city makes desirable place for traffickers flying under the radar

Victoria Canadian Forces member honored with exceptional Rotary Club award

Capt. Jacqueline Zweng is the Western Canada Ambassador of Wounded Warriors Canada

Oak Bay athletes rule the slopes at Island ski and snowboard series

Oak Bay boys take top ski, snowboard honours

Two-vehicle crash in Langford sends one to hospital Monday morning

Driver sent to hospital with unspecified injuries

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

Most Read