New research shows financial impact of homelessness on our health care system

New research shows financial impact of homelessness on our health care system

A new study out of London, Ontario, shows the impact the homelessness crisis is having on our health care system.

According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, nearly 30,000 Canadians were homeless when they were admitted to and/or discharged from hospital.

The report found that a hospital stay for someone without a home typically lasts twice as long and costs twice as much.

“That’s because when someone who is homeless ends up in the hospital, they are often very sick,” said Cheryl Forchuk, study co-author and assistant scientific director at the Lawson Health Research Institute.

The study found that a homeless person spends an average of 15 days in the hospital, compared to the national average of eight days. The average cost per stay was $16,800, compared to the national average of $7,800.

“Almost everything you see with the homeless population, everything that has to do with health, is that people are worse off if you don’t have a home,” Forchuk said.

For outside agencies trying to provide people with stable housing, these findings are not surprising.

“Some people literally dug holes in the ground to escape the cold,” said Joe Mancini, director of The Working Centre in Kitchener, Ontario.

Mancini stresses that basic amenities, such as heating and running water, are essential to stay healthy.

“That’s where the health problems start to creep in,” he said. “Your immune system starts to break down. Things like the flu get worse, pneumonia gets worse. And that’s why the hospital visits are so high.”

The study authors and Mancini believe the solution is simple, but requires an investment.

“There is an understanding in the system, the hospital system, of how much homelessness contributes to the costs of the hospital system and we can reduce that by creating more housing, by creating a lot more support in the community,” Mancini suggested.

CTV News reached out to Grand River Hospital, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and the Waterloo Region, but they declined to participate in this story.