by Christina Sarich
If you’ve been without a home for 10 days in Medicine Hat, Alberta in Canada, your days are numbered – in a good way. The city has come up with what is deemed an incredible solution for homelessness, completely ending the tribulations of thousands who face the sordid reality of having no shelter.
In fact, every single one of the 60,000 in the city of Medicine Hat is housed in an apartment or shelter instead of being left on the streets. Mayor Ted Clugston says 10 days is the absolute limit; the city usually finds housing for homeless people even quicker than that.
In an unconventional program called ‘Housing First’ the city takes care of people’s most essential needs, before trying to figure out why they are homeless (among these reasons are mental health issues, drug addiction, or simply having some tough luck.)
The only state that comes close in the US to achieving such an admirable feat is Utah. The state used this model to reduce its homelessness by 91% in ten years.
The city in Canada has already met the milestones they set to achieve in just 5 years:
- House 290 homeless people by March 2015, of which 240 would be chronically or episodically homeless.
- Ensure that no more than 10% of those served by housing first programs return to homelessness by 2015.
- Eliminate 50% of 2013 emergency shelter beds by 2015 (a 30 bed reduction).
- Reduce the average length of stay in emergency shelters to 10 days by March 2015.
- Decrease the flow into homelessness from jails and hospitals.
Since adopting this program, the city also has fewer health care and police force costs since disturbances and emergency room visits by the formerly homeless are now extremely low. The program focused on the most marginalized citizens – women, children, Aboriginals, seniors, and unemployed families, and it worked.