Over the course of 25 years, a single homeless person in Metro Vancouver could cost the public more than $1 million, a price tag that experts say would be much lower with supportive housing.

Researchers estimate that the cost of providing emergency services to a homeless person is as much as $55,000 each year.

By that estimation, 49-year-old Gary Crumley has cost the system more than $1 million for his quarter century on the streets. He's spent nearly half his life in and out of prison, hospitals and mental health wards.

Crumley, who is schizophrenic, is now trying to turn his life around at a VisionQuest recovery centre in Langley, but says it's hard to shake the past.

"I had given up on myself many times," he told CTV News.

Catharine Hume of the Mental Health Commission says that people like Crumley might not be such a huge financial burden if they were given supportive housing, including services like mental health treatment and addiction recovery.

"It's more cost efficient to provide housing and supports to people, as opposed to seeing people revolve through really expensive services like emergency departments, interactions with the police and the judicial system," she said.

That kind of thinking has led business leaders like Frank Giustra to found Streetohome, a foundation that is hoping to raise $26.5 million to build permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

He says that housing one person for a year costs about $37,000 -- just two thirds of the estimated cost in emergency services if that person remains on the streets.

"There is a business case to be made here. In the long term, this is just smart business," Giustra said.

Watch CTV News at Six for a full report from Jon Woodward