I was very encouraged when I read about Abbotsford Community Services’ (ACS) housing project for homeless men.
I was particularly pleased to read that they are planning on using the “housing first” model, in which those who are housed do so in conjunction with support for their addictions and/or mental health concerns – not after they are sober or mentally stable.
I was equally dismayed that the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) is so opposed to this project. This method of helping those who are homeless has proven to be successful for the people it serves as well as the communities in which they are housed.
The Vancouver Sun ran a series of articles last fall reporting on the huge success of this method in Vancouver. The “At Home” project works with the principle that chronically homeless people with serious mental illnesses or addictions will stabilize if they are given a house first and then support services like drug counselling, health care, etc.
It has also proven to save taxpayers thousands of dollars. The cost of housing and supporting the 10 per cent of the participants with the highest needs for one year is $16,825, but they used $26,215 fewer emergency services than their counterparts in the control group of the study during that time. That’s a saving of $9,390 per person. For every dollar spent on housing people first, with support, $1.54 is saved because these same people reduce their need for emergency shelters, emergency room visits and justice services.
I applaud ACS for taking the initiative and having the vision to pursue this innovative and proven method of helping those who are often hard to house and care for. I hope that the ADBA will remove its petitions and embrace this project and that its members will actively seek ways to support it. Abbotsford needs more projects like this. Let’s be known as a city that cares for all its inhabitants, that welcomes people equally to our neighbourhoods, and that supports organizations that do difficult work with excellence.