Seattle's homeless programs could work in Vancouver
Published Wednesday, January 26, 2011 6:20PM PST
Seattle's strategy to end chronic homelessness has garnered international attention and Vancouver community activists are taking notice. Seattle has been a leader in funding Housing First programs like the one at 1811 Eastlake in the city's downtown core.
The 75-unit building was the focus of a pioneering study published in the prestigious Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). It showed that taxpayers saved $2,500 per month per person after the homeless alcoholic was housed compared to when they were living on the streets and in and out of the emergency room or jail. Housing First aims to end homelessness by housing individuals and providing medical, mental health and other support services on site.
Daniel Malone from the Downtown Emergency Services Center says that previous programs weren't solving the problem.
"They were costing the public a whole lot of money with their overuse of crisis services and they were dying," he said.
Malone says that providing the homeless with housing and supplying them with support and care they can then begin the conversation about healthier ways of living
The housing project targeted the most severe chronic alcoholics living on Seattle's streets. The study showed the longer they were housed, the more stable their lives became and taxpayers saw even greater savings to the system.
Often the first step to find supportive housing is Seattle's Dutch Shisler Sobering Center.
Community activists say a similar program in Vancouver could help end homelessness and save lives.
Vincent Falla was one of about four thousand homeless people in Seattle until he became a regular at the Sobering Center.
"They take recovering alcoholics or people struggling and put you up for the night," Falla said. "Sober you up, give you options, programs, housing," After nine months of contact with staff at the Sobering Center, Falla quit drinking.
For Kim Davis, a resident of 1811 Eastlake, says a permanent home made all the difference. She's been hooked on drugs and alcohol since she was a teenager.
"You gotta face reality sooner or later," she said. "So I just quit. For five months I've been clean and sober."
It's something she thought would never happen.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mi-Jung Lee