I’m reading a book, Utopia for Realists, available through our local library.
In a chapter called The End of Poverty, the author details a recent plan unrolled in the Netherlands from 2006-2014. With a budget of $217 million, they offered free counselling for homeless people and, most significantly, free homes.
After just two years, vagrancy in the big cities was down by 65 per cent. Drug use was down by half. The mental and physical health of those assisted improved significantly. By 2008, the program had brought 6,500 homeless people off the streets.
Because the budget had to be justified, a strict accounting was done to determine the economic impact. And guess what? It was an unmitigated success.
The costs (for free shelter, assistance programs, free drugs and access to prevention services) were minimal compared to what the region had been paying for social services, police and court costs. This was just savings for the government; eliminating homelessness would pay off for a town’s visitors, businesses and residents.
Solving homelessness this way frees up funds. And it’s not just a one-off success story; as in any good experiment, it has been duplicated in other parts of the world with equal economic success.
If a message of compassion is not enough, perhaps the Capital Regional District board and our town council will listen to a message of saving money. Instead of paying the police to bully and intimidate the homeless, throwing them in and out of jail cells and hospitals and throwing them back onto the street, why not take a more sane and humane approach?
I’m hoping that our local government members read our local paper. I invite one of them to contact me and discuss the future of our homeless and maybe explain why we can’t implement something that works. And one that will save the town money and possibly allow us to spend that money on other urgent matters?
I’m puzzled by the resistance I come up against when dealing with solutions for our low-income residents – we are not allowed to build or live in tiny homes because of an antiquated bylaw, I’m told repeatedly. Perhaps we can save money by giving them away.