A new report shows homelessness prevention does help reduce the risk of homelessness.
In Greater Victoria, the response to homelessness has typically been focused on helping people after they have lost their housing. But according to a new report by Victoria’s Community Social Planning Council, there is a huge need to shift that focus on stopping homelessness before it happens.
“The truth of the matter is there is just very little happening around homeless prevention,” said Erin Dej, researcher with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.
The council believes prevention saves significant cost and harm for both the individual and the public.
In 2021, Simon Fraser University conducted a study that said the public cost of managing people while they experience prolonged homelessness is over $50,000 per person, per year in B.C.
“We’ve been using these emergency responses to try and address what is actually a long-term sustainable social challenge that needs these long-term investments and solutions,” said Dej.
The report draws from a rich data set of households that are at risk of homelessness in Greater Victoria.
It shows one of the key drivers is a lack of affordable housing, with 77.5 per cent of participants saying they pay more than 50 per cent of their income on rent, and 69 per cent having incomes lower than Canada’s official poverty line.
“Folks know what they need, they need enough money to be able to pay for their housing,” said Hannah Mang-Wooley, a Tenant Legal Advocate at Together Against Poverty Society.
Local experts say policies and programs need to be put in place in order to prevent homelessness, and it starts with housing.
“There needs to be action to cap rents, there needs to be action to increase the supply of affordable rents, and I think we really need to take the power for housing out of the hands of the landlord,” added Wooley,
The council, through the report, stresses the need to move beyond temporary emergency solutions to focus on the underlying issues.