It would be cheaper to provide actual housing and support for BC’s homeless than it is to provide existing non-housing services to the same people:

A new study says providing shelter for the homeless with severe addictions and mental illness throughout British Columbia could save taxpayers millions of dollars.

“Addiction is the most prevalent mental health problem in both the street homeless and at-risk populations, followed by concurrent disorders and, less frequently, mental illness alone,” the Simon Fraser University report says.

The paper — titled Housing and Support for Adults with Severe Addictions and/or Mental Illnesses in British Columbia [warning: 15-page PDF] — says providing non-housing services for such people currently costs the public system more than $55,000 per year per person. It says providing adequate housing and supports could reduce this cost to $37,000 per year….

“The costs of providing supported housing and other health services to this population … is lower than the cost incurred through the use of emergency departments, the corrections system and emergency shelters when they are homeless,” the report says.

(Hat tip: David Eby. If you are at all interested in poverty, homelessness, or the social impact of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver — and if you live here, you ought to be — I strongly recommend reading Eby’s blog. He works with the Pivot Legal Society, a non-profit that provides legal assistance to people in the Downtown Eastside.)