In Alberta, homelessness is a persistent social issue that affects over 8,000 people directly.
Not only is this emotionally, physically and mentally taxing on the person experiencing
homelessness, but it also takes its toll on the public purse. It is estimated that the cost of
supporting a chronically homeless person can be as high as $100,000 annually when you
take all of the publically provided services that are used.
To address this problem, in 2009 Alberta initiated a 10 year plan to end
homelessness in the province. This plan uses a Housing First approach, which focuses on
providing housing before any other social supports, and has been proven to be a more cost
effective way of addressing homelessness than the traditional model. While Housing First
may reduce the cost of addressing homelessness, the Alberta Government is facing
tightening budgetary restraints and a growing deficit due to the low cost of oil. Social
Impact Bonds, a financial tool that can be used to harness private capital to fund public
services, could provide the capital necessary to sustain these programs as the province
weathers the economic recession.