The city has some black and white numbers to drive home its point to the province that money is needed to pay for permanent supportive housing. It also spells out how much the province would save in other areas.
The budget submission from the city released on Friday calls for $124 million in construction costs for 900 units over six years, plus operating grants for medical supports to ramp up through 2026, to $24 million a year.
To justify it, the report cites results from Homeward Trust on the thousands it has housed.
“Since 2009, more than 8,400 people have been housed and overall homelessness in our city has been reduced by 43 per cent. In addition, these efforts saved an estimated $920 million in health and justice system costs,” the submission said.
“This is stupid,” Coun. Scott McKeen said. “The way we keep spending thousands and millions, chasing our tail on this issue, instead of solving it.”
He points to Ambrose Place in the MacAuley neighbourhood as the shining example for the hard to house. The city submission lists off daily costs to the system.
“A hospital stay for a person experiencing homelessness costs more than $8,000 per day and an emergency room visit $840.”
The report using a 2007-08 study adds, “just 10 heavy individual system users among the homeless population cost Alberta Health Services an estimated $3.5 million alone in a single year.”
McKeen, who sits on the Edmonton Police Commission, also estimates that since Ambrose Place came online to provide the most intense level of service for the chronically addicted, police calls for service are down 50 per cent.
“I have no doubt that doesn’t reflect everything in the cost because if they’re called to go to Ambrose Place, it’s probably because one of their guys is having some sort of an episode and they need to get him calmed down. It’s probably a very quick stop. Whereas before it could have been, they’d have to take that person to an emergency room and sit with him for four hours.”
McKeen is confident in the numbers that have the city providing $37.5 million through 2026 at roughly $6 million a year.
“The city will provide the land,” he said. “The city will do all of the public engagement required. Then there’s capital costs, and if we need to P3 them let’s P3 them. I don’t care. Let’s get them built as efficiently and as quickly as possible and find the right non-profit partners to operate them and get Alberta Health Services supports with that.”
Federal money has been dedicated to the file in $12-million to $13-million increments over six years totaling $80 million, to build 150 units annually starting in 2021 through 2026 for a total capital cost of $241 million.
“If we don’t get that, we’ll probably going to have to look at a made-in-Edmonton solution,” McKeen speculated. “We’re going to have to pull the non-profit and the corporate and the business sector together, along with the City of Edmonton and say, ‘How do we solve this? How do we do this in a way that’s compassionate and yet pragmatic so we don’t keep chasing our tail?'”
Permanent supportive housing is one half of the city’s eight-page submission to the Kenney government that will be reviewed at the next city council meeting on Tuesday. The city is also seeking infrastructure investments that serve the greater Metro Edmonton region as an economic development tool, especially in mass transit.