There are over 2,400 people affected by homelessness in Edmonton, as reported by the Edmonton homeless count in 2010.
Of that number, there are between 300-600 people estimated to be identified as chronically homeless and suffering from a minimum of one severe mental illness. Individuals in this demographic require a specialized service to overcome their unique set of needs.
Pathways to Housing Edmonton is currently providing specialized service to help as many as 80 chronically homeless individuals make a lasting improvement to their lives. Core to Pathways to Housing’s housing first approach is the application of holistic, clinical care through Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams. The Pathways to Housing program was founded in New York and has since expanded across the U.S. and Canada. In Edmonton the Pathways to Housing program has been successful in helping the 80 clients involved, but constrained, by funding, from reaching all those in need. New funding from a Social Impact Bond (SIB) would allow the Pathways to Housing program to scale up and deliver their services to at least twice as many chronically homeless and mentally ill people.
Successful SIBs require measurable, outcomes-based, economic benefits, which the homelessness work of Pathways to Housing Edmonton has already shown through savings to the Government of Alberta. Early results have estimated total government savings, through cost avoidance, to be $2.2 million annually. These savings are accrued from reductions in clients’ admission to inpatient hospital beds and reductions in the frequency of emergency room visits. The program also results in other savings that have yet to be quantified, including a reduction in police contacts, crime rates and, incarceration times for those in the program. The reduction in hospital beds used by clients of Pathways to Housing was equivalent to 1500 inpatient days annually and translates to an increased ability for hospitals to care for others and expand slower. The same holds true for the 66% reduction in emergency room visits.
While not without its challenges, Pathways to Housing shows signs of being a strong candidate for Edmontonians to support with a SIB. Pathways to Housing is creating lasting benefits in the lives of people in need, creating easily quantifiable savings for the government, and applying a structured methodology of program measurement.
Using a SIB to scale programs such as Pathways to Housing could make an immediate impact in the lives of many at-risk Edmontonians by supporting more of the chronically homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses and complex needs.
1. Edmonton Homeless counts 2010 (http://www.homewardtrust.ca/images/resources/2012-05-09-16-26Trend%20Analysis%20December%201%202010-%20KF%20Edits.pdf)
2. The Social Impact Bond framework (http://financeforgood.ca/program-structure)
3. Pathways to Housing Annual Program Report; April 1, 2011-March 31, 2012 ()