A Canadian municipality, Medicine Hat, located in Alberta has managed to completely eradicate homelessness, ensuring that every inhabitants sleeps with a roof over their heads each night.
According to an article published by the GoodNews Network in May 2015, the city has put in place a policy which ensures that anyone who has spent 10 days on the streets or in a shelter gets a home. Such persons are moved into a house or apartment as soon as they are found.
The city managed to do this by adapting a “Housing First” approach, in which officials prioritize housing homeless before dealing with the reason they’re homeless.
In 2009, the city began constructing homes for homeless people, and since Oct. 2015, has managed to move more than 900 people from off the streets and local shelters. According to an article posted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on May 14 2015, it cost the city only $20,000 per year to house one homeless person, and this is drastically less than the $100,000 the city would have to spend if the person was living out on the streets.
In an interview with CBC News, mayor of the community, Ted Clugston stated, “Housing First puts everything on its head. It used to be, ‘You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues.”
“If you’re addicted to drugs, it’s going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you’re sleeping under a park bench,” Clugston said.
In the same article posted by the CBC, it is noted that In Medicine Hat, emergency room visits and interactions with police have dropped. This saves the municipality’s money, and helps their overall productivity level.
With a similar strategy, Utah has also managed to decrease their level of homelessness. An article posted by GoodNews Network in May 2015 states that “Utah has slashed chronic homelessness by 91 percent in the last ten years with a simple solution — give the homeless a home.”
The article also went further to say that as a result Utah’s success other states, such as Indiana, Hawaii and Washington State are considering to adapt a similar to eradicate homeless. Utah
In an interview with the Lion’s Pride, some Saint Leo students weighed in on whether or not they thought that areas in and around Tampa could be successful in adapting this model.
“I think it would probably take around five years, but I definitely think that this could work. It’s so heartbreaking to see the homeless people on the streets, especially when it gets cold,” said Laurian Simpson, a freshman, majoring in biology. “Since I have started Saint Leo, I have volunteered with the Salvation Army a few times with the Honors Club, and we get to feed some homeless people. I know that they would definitely appreciate coming off the streets and having a roof over their heads.”
White, professor of mathematics, and director of the Honors Program at Saint Leo University has facilitated a number of trips to the Salvation Army, where members of the Honors Club are able to help in feeding the homeless. White was asked to weigh in on what could be done to possibly eradicate homelessness in our nearby community.
“Something can be done about most problems in most places, given enough time and money. It is great that a place to live is provided for those in need in the community in Canada, but I am not sure we have available housing year round in Florida to make that happen quickly. In addition, the homeless problem is much more complex than just a place to live, they need many other services such as job training, mental healthcare, transportation, and food. We should always be careful to treat the problem, not just the symptoms,” said White.
She is, however, optimistic about what the younger population has in store about these issues.
“It is exciting to work with your generation – I look forward to the day when I hear about an SLU graduate who has made great strides helping the homeless in Tampa Bay,” said White.