Medicine Hat Virtually Eliminates Homelessness With A Simple Solution

The "housing first" plan is both effective and inexpensive

In Medicine Hat, Alberta, the concept of “housing first” was originally launched in April 2009. According to Huffington Post. They hoped the five-year plan would eliminate homelessness by March 2015. The initiative makes the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society responsible for finding permanent housing for homeless individuals within 10 days of finding out he or she doesn’t have it.

Mayor Ted Clugston voted against the plan until he learned how much money it would save his city.

“If you can get somebody off the street, it saves the emergency room visits, it saves the police, it saves the justice system — and so when you add up all those extra costs… you can buy a lot of housing for that amount of money,” he told CBC News.

The numbers are stunning: providing health and legal services to homeless people costs over $80,000 a year, according to Alberta’s Ministry of Human Services. But, using “housing first,” finding them homes to live in costs just less than $30,000 yearly.

The most important number, though, is this: The program helped give 885 homeless people places to live as of March 31, 2015.

Before the program was implemented, Medicine Hat had almost as many homeless people as the far larger city of Calgary, despite Medicine Hat’s population of about 61,000.

Mayor Clugston also said he believes homelessness may be completely erased in Medicine Hat by the end of the year. When that happens, he says, the plan can be deemed fully sustainable.

Calgary, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Grand Prairie, Red Deer and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo are also implementing the plan, which has seen a 16% drop in homelessness in all seven areas since 2008, according to the Huffington Post.

(Main image by scribbletaylor via Flickr)