What the homeless need …
Â … is homes. Check out this astonishing admission, as reported by CBC:
St. Paul’s in downtown Vancouver, one out of every four beds is being used to treat the homeless, drug addicts and the mentally ill, said [Lorna Howes, the director of acute and community mental health for Vancouver with the Vancouver Coastal Health authority].
We are spending money on the homeless that would be better spent housing them. In fact, we are spending more on the homeless through health care, criminal justice and social services than we would if we provided them with supportive housing linked to the health care system (see this post).
The solution proposed seems odd to me:
In a bid to reduce the number of hospital beds being taken up by the homeless and drug addicts in Vancouver, doctors will soon be making house calls to those who live in single room occupancy (SRO) hotels in the Downtown Eastside.
It is a good idea to make early interventions to monitor the health of homeless people. In fact, there are already street nurses working the Downtown Eastside doing this amazing work. But people in SROs are not actually homeless, even if their housing leaves a lot to be desired. And anyway, people go to emergency when there is an emergency. House calls are a laudable idea but of little use to someone experiencing a drug overdose.
I recognize that the health authority is trying to deal with a difficult situation. But really, a full-court press calling for major new public investments in supportive housing (and affordable housing more generally) is really what we need. In the next few years we are going to see a lot of high end condos built in the Downtown Eastside. Apart from a couple hundred units, largely tied to one megaproject (Woodwards), there is no new social housing on the slate for the Downtown Eastside, and these new units are going to be more than offset by conversions to condos in time for the project really sucking up millions and millions of public money, the 2010 Olympics.