Report touts housing benefits

Housing the homeless in Red Deer greatly reduced their impact on justice and health systems, statistics show.

Housing the homeless in Red Deer greatly reduced their impact on justice and health systems, statistics show.

The city’s 2014-2015 Homeless Initiatives report released on Thursday indicates that incarcerations were reduced by 92.5 per cent, court appearances were cut by 59 per cent and interactions with police fell by 51 per cent for the homeless once they had permanent housing.

Days in hospital dropped by 79.4 per cent, interactions with EMS (emergency medical services) fell 60 per cent and emergency room visits declined by 53 per cent.

Reductions were determined by comparing interactions 12 months prior to housing and post housing since April 2013.

“First and foremost, it’s about the health and well-being of the individuals being housed. They are healthier as a result of being housed through housing first,” said Scott Cameron, the city’s social planning manager, on Thursday.

The data also shows how the investment into ending homelessness reduces costs to justice and health systems, he said.

“I think that is important information for the province because they are the funders for those other systems for the large part.”

In 2014-15, city programs received a $3.1-million grant from Alberta’s Outreach and Support Services Initiative and $421,528 from the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

Some of the programs that received funding were the housing first program at the former Buffalo Hotel operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Red Deer Housing Team with Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Shelter, Safe Harbour Society’s housing programs, Red Deer Native Friendship Society’s housing first and prevention services, and McMan Youth Family and Community Services Association’s Arcadia Youth project.

Housing results for the city showed a total of 581 individuals were housed or received continued support from the previous year in their housing between April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015.

A total of 192 new individuals were housed or received housing supports during that period.

Cameron said it does take a community working together to bring about change and the many Red Deer agencies working on homelessness have made the city a leader in Alberta.

“They are very interested in supplying the information, gathering the information, learning from that information and looking at ways to improve supports and services to end homelessness. Without that type of can-do attitude, we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”

Elsewhere in Central Alberta, the City of Lacombe and Central Alberta Youth Unlimited were scheduled to receive funding on Thursday to establish a locally supported housing initiative for youth at risk of homelessness, under-education, under-employment and addictions.

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