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  A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are
  doing to put housing back on the public agenda in Ontario,
  across Canada and around the world.

In this issue

   Number 156 • November 2012


Emergency Responses to Homelessness
Cost More than Supportive Housing

by Ele Pawelski,
Raising the Roof Volunteer


It’s cheaper and more cost effective to provide housing first to individuals experiencing homelessness than to give them emergency or transitional housing support, says a new report released last month by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network.  

“It may seem counterintuitive…but the research reviewed here indicates that this is actually the case,” says author Stephen Gaetz in the report.

The argument is that the cost of housing a homeless person is offset by reduced use of health care and other services when that individual is living in stable housing with ongoing support.  It’s a powerful argument because it’s based on evidence.  

The report, The Real Cost of Homelessness, backs up its assertion with data from a number of Canadian and American studies.  Use of health care and involvement with the justice system are two items the report focuses on.

The report refers to research showing that persons who experience homelessness are susceptible to a higher rate of illnesses than those who are properly housed.  Homeless individuals are exposed to a greater range of circumstances that promote ill health such as living in congregate settings and being unable to access adequate health care when they do get sick.  Over time, health issues will intensify and chronically homeless individuals will increasingly turn to the health care system.  Health care costs skyrocket.  

As an example, a 2004-2005 yearlong Canadian study of 1,190 homeless people found the annual cost of hospitalization of a homeless participant was $2,495 compared to $524 for a person housed in the general population; that’s a difference of $1,971.

The report goes on to draw similar conclusions with respect to involvement in the criminal justice system.  Homeless individuals are more likely to be arrested and in jail than those that are housed; upon release without adequate support, a homeless person is more likely to reoffend.  

A 2010 Toronto study found that one in five prisoners is homeless when incarcerated  and their average stay was two months.  The cost of incarcerating one person is more than $100,000 per year; two months is more than $16,500.

“So how do we save money?,” the report asks.  Simple,  shift services and money from treatment to prevention.  In addition to cost savings, this will lead to improved health and quality of life, which benefits individuals, families and communities.  There is also a strong argument that this response is humane.  

In closing, the report acknowledges that the data and correlations from the studies on which it relies may not be precise but nevertheless suggests that there is “a strong case for shifting our focus from an emergency response (emphasizing emergency shelters, day programs, and law enforcement) to prevention and rehousing.”

Advocating for a shift from treatment to prevention of homelessness is not new.  But it’s a model that makes sense in these economic times.

News Briefs

Engaging the Private Sector in Solutions to Youth Homelessness
Raising the Roof to release report and toolkit

On November 14, Raising the Roof will be releasing the long-awaited online toolkit and report, It’s Everybody’s Business: Engaging the Private Sector in Solutions to Youth Homelessness by Amanda Noble, Manager of Research and Community Initiatives. “Our labour market and society as a whole benefit when we support disadvantaged youth to gain work experience and successful employment,” said Raising the Roof  Executive Director Carolann Barr. Look for more information in the December issue of Housing Again. In the meantime, check out the network of youth employment services National Youth Employment Map and get your agency on the map if you offer youth employment programs in Canada.

Opening Eyes, Opening Minds

A new report, called Opening Eyes, Opening Minds, concludes that mental illness and addictions are often “misunderstood, misdiagnosed and ignored, including in the health care system,” said Sujitha Ratnasingham, lead author of the report by the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario. “They don’t fully understand the impact it has on their life as a whole, their work, their social interactions, their family,” she said. The impact is also severe on their access to secure housing.

Vancouver Rent Bank Helps Prevent Homelessness

The Vancouver Rent Bank (VRB), a new program for people facing homelessness, was launched recently, on World Homeless Action Day.  The program, which is similar to programs in Ontario, Surrey, Prince George and elsewhere, is expected to hand out at least 540 interest-free micro-loans to renters.

One Step Closer to a National Housing Strategy

Bill C-400, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, passed second reading recently and was referred to committee. If passed, Bill C-400 would establish a national housing strategy. The bill would require the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to work with the provinces and territories, aboriginal communities, municipalities, non-profit and private-sector housing providers, and civil society organizations.

Toronto Housing Programs Face Cuts

On October 5, the Wellesley Institute reported on $22 million in cuts to City of Toronto housing and homelessness programs – mainly due to cuts from the provincial government. The Toronto Star, in a front page story on October 18, reported on cuts to The Hardship Fund, which provides medical support to some of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Jennifer Parnell Moves On
Raising the Roof benefited from her passion and commitment

Raising the Roof’s Director of Strategic and Financial Planning Jennifer Parnell will be leaving this month to spend more time with family and friends and to pursue her interests in fitness, sports and travel. “The last twelve years have been the most rewarding and challenging of my professional career,” Jennifer said. “It has been a pleasure to work with such an amazing team at Raising the Roof and I am so proud of what we have accomplished.”
Jennifer began with Raising the Roof in October 2000 as the Executive Director. Under Jennifer’s leadership, Raising the Roof created partnerships with agencies addressing homelessness in their communities and attracted numerous corporate and media partners to become involved in solutions to homelessness.
Jennifer recruited Carolann Barr as the Director of Research and Community Initiatives in 2008 with the goal of grooming her to become Jennifer’s successor. Carolann was subsequently appointed ED in 2010 and Jennifer moved into her current role, working with the staff, board and community and corporate partners of Raising the Roof to identify strategic directions that have a long-lasting and positive impact in the homelessness sector while also ensuring the long-term financial stability of Raising the Roof.


Annual Eva’s Initiatives’ Awards for Ending Youth Homelessness

Eva’s Initiatives, the Sprott Foundation and Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, are pleased to offer four awards of $25,000 each for organizations working with homeless and at-risk youth. For a second year, the awards put a spotlight on what works in terms of preventing and ending youth homelessness. “This focus challenges us all to think beyond the emergency needs of vulnerable youth,” said Maria Crawford, Executive Director of Eva’s Initiatives. “The goal of ending homelessness means equipping youth in multiple domains of their lives to achieve greater and longer lasting stability.” The deadline for applications is December 10, 2012 at 9 p.m. EST.

New Housing in Saskatchewan

The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, along with SV Rental Corporation, celebrated the opening of a new affordable housing complex recently. The 12-unit townhouse style complex will assist families in Estevan in housing need. The project received funding of $1 million through the federal/provincial Investment in Affordable Housing 2011 – 2014 Agreement to enable six of the units to be affordable rental housing.

Homeless Women Share Their Insights

The Homeless Hub has issued a new study, We’re not asking, we’re telling: An inventory of practices promoting the dignity, autonomy, and self-determination of women and families facing homelessness. The study builds upon the findings of several recent participatory projects in which women facing homelessness have taken the lead and voiced their knowledge about the causes and consequences of, and the solutions to homelessness. Women experiencing homelessness shared their insights about services, and about their own strengths.

Giving Up One Night’s Sleep for Homeless Youth

According to Covenant House, on any given night in Toronto, there are as many as 2,000 youth living on the street. On November 15, a group of senior executives and celebrities will give up one good night’s sleep by sleeping outside to raise awareness and money for homeless youth.

Paloma Foundation Launches New Website

The Paloma Foundation is excited to announce the launch of their new website. Online resources include video footage from some of the Paloma-Youth Shelters Learning Series sessions and they will continue to add additional sessions, including the November 15th, 2012 session with speaker, Dr. Gabor Maté on Vicarious Trauma.

Visit us at:

Raising the Roof

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