Thursday, May 25, 2006

Homelessness

I have not been downtown in the area close to Streetlink at night in some time. The semi-suburban life in my Burnside-Gorge area (kids, school, work, sports, scouting) means that I have not been getting out on the town much.

The other day I took a friend out for her birthday and we ate in that neighbourhood. I was stunned at the numbers of people that were already preparing to sleep in a doorway. I easily saw dozens of people ready to sleep outside.

The day after I had a chance to have a conversation with Don down at Streetlink I was stunned at how much I did not know about the current situation in this town. 1000 homeless - an unbelievable number. We have employed homeless now.

I fear that we are headed in the same direction London was in when I lived there in the early 1990s. At the time the homeless were an accepted fact and the public simply whent about their business as if they did not exist.

People that are homeless cost the state money, and this alone is a good argument for dealing with the issue. But I think it is much more important to understand the loss of the human capital. This number is much, much higher.

If a person is working for $20 per hour, over 30 years this is an income of close to $1 000 000. The business employing that person will have made somewhere in the order of a $1 000 000 as well. Homeless tend not be able to contribute to society by volunteering for minor hockey, engaging in politics, building social capital in the community, having childern, or many other things. Comfortably one could say that having a 35 year old person become homeless will cost society in the order of $5 000 000 to $10 000 000

The annual economic loss to CRD from having 1000 homeless people is roughly $60 000 000 per year. The non-financial loss to the region is something in the order of 50 000 to 100 000 hours of community volunteer activity.

Homelessness is wasting a vital resource - people. Allowing it to continue will reduce our productivitynad harm the whole nation.
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