Liberals spent $443 million to reduce homelessness—numbers increased by 20 percent: report

On Wednesday morning, the PBO released a study on the government’s homelessness efforts, following the launch of the Reaching Home program in 2018 as part of the Trudeau Liberals’ broader housing strategy.

Liberals spent $443 million to reduce homelessness—numbers increased by 20 percent: report
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Homelessness has increased by 20 percent in Canada, despite the $443 million in new annual spending directly targeting the problem, records from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) show.

The $443 million was a massive 374 percent jump in funding.

The 20 percent figure is part of so-called "point in time counts" which look to get a rough estimate of the number of people without a permanent roof over their heads.

“In the latest point in time count published by Infrastructure Canada, the number of homeless people had increased by 20 per cent relative to 2018 reaching 34,270, and we estimate that the number of chronically homeless people had increased by 38 per cent relative to 2018," documents read.

On Wednesday morning, the PBO released a study on the government’s homelessness efforts, following the launch of the Reaching Home program in 2018 as part of the Trudeau Liberals’ broader housing strategy.

Trudeau's plan sought to reduce the number of people without shelter for six months or more by 50 percent. The PBO found that the program likely helped 6,000 people stay off the streets, but in order to reach the government's desired targets, even more would have to be spent.

“The best available evidence suggests that homelessness has increased in spite of Reaching Home and, as a result, the program is not on track to meet its targets with respect to reducing homelessness,” the PBO report reads. “We estimate that achieving a 50 per cent reduction in chronic homelessness would require an additional $3.5 billion per year, approximately a seven-fold increase in funding,” the PBO report.

Housing Minister Sean Fraser stated that the government's response extends beyond the Reaching Home plan, acknowledging that there is still significant work to be done.

“The solution to the challenges we’re facing around homelessness is not going to be achieved simply by supporting community initiatives,” he said. “To address them you have to go upstream, without the affordable housing stock to provide a roof over the heads for everyone in this country, we will never end homelessness.”

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre pressed the Liberals on the matter, asking how the government managed to spend so much money to reach such bad results.

“If it costs a half a billion dollars for him to drive up homelessness, how much would it cost to drive it down?” Poilievre asked.

The PBO says that the program had paid for 17,849 people to find housing placements. An additional 5,399 people were able to to find emergency housing thanks to the funding.

The review also concluded that the federal government does not hold a particularly significant role in fighting homelessness. Before the Liberals took office, just 7 percent of money spent on reducing homelessness was federal. That figure jumped to just 14 percent thanks to the newly allocated funds.

Most tax dollars spent on fighting homelessness came from municipal and provincial governments.

“Housing placements do not reduce future homelessness on a one-for-one basis because some of the homeless people placed in stable housing would have found housing anyways and some people placed in stable housing return to homelessness,” reads the report.

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