It could cost up to $18M to do nothing to address individuals with complex needs in Kelowna

Cost of complex homeless

The City of Kelowna is looking to collaborate with governments across the Okanagan and senior levels of government to develop a new model of complex care housing with supports for those most vulnerable in the community.

The first step, a complex needs advocacy paper, will be presented to Kelowna city council Monday.

The advocacy paper indicates nearly half of all homeless within Kelowna, West Kelowna and Vernon (249 out of 520), have complex needs.

Sixty per cent are male, 34 per cent Indigenous.

In Kelowna alone, 196 of the 297 who identified as homeless during the last 'Point-in-Time' count in March of last year, had complex needs.

Many with complex needs require a range of housing options and health supports that include primary care and care for mental health and substance use.

Many of those specific services are not available through traditional supportive housing.

The advocacy paper suggests there are "gaps" within the regional continuum of care despite delivery of a number of affordable and supportive housing initiatives.

"There is significant evidence that beyond the human cost of homelessness, the economic cost of not addressing the identified systems gaps related to the provision of integrated housing and associated health supports for individuals experiencing complex needs will continue to require crisis responses at a cost to social, health care and justice systems," the paper states.

"It is anticipated that the cost to address the system gap related to providing housing with supports for approximately 249 individuals with complex needs in in the current system is between $14 million and $18 million annually."

In Kelowna alone, that would work out to between $10.5 and $14.7 million.

"In contrast, it is estimated the annual costs of providing supports for people with complex needs across the region is approximately $9.5 million. These costs are considerably lower than the cost of not addressing the system gap.

"An approach to housing individuals with complex needs that incorporates onsite health supports alongside complementary community based health services can lead to a cost savings of between $4.5 and $8.5 million."

The total cost of housing infrastructure spread over three years from 2022 through 2024 is estimated at $106 million, with an additional $9.5 million in annual support costs.

The report suggests a redesign of the system should be grounded on a housing first principle promoted by the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society.

"The framework set forth in the advocacy paper will guide the provincial lead agencies as they invest into infrastructure and resources to address the system gaps along the continuum of care that effect individuals that require significant housing and health supports.

"The advocacy paper provides an opportunity to not only address complex needs, but to build on the learnings as the recommendations move forward in a manner that will inform the necessary province-wide, long-term strategy needed to create appropriate housing and supports in communities across the province."

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