Preventing homelessness pays dividends

Within a few months Chilliwack will have a complement of services aimed at helping people get back on their feet.

It has long been said that prevention is more efficient than dealing with the consequences of inaction. That’s particularly the case with when dealing with people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.

Repeated studies have shown that when people are given the support they need to regain control of their lives, they are more likely to break the cycle of despair and destitution.

Chilliwack is in the process of putting that argument to the test.

Within a few months the city will have a complement of services aimed at helping people get back on their feet. Chilliwack has already celebrated the opening of the supportive housing unit on School Street that provides stable accommodation, particularly for youth at risk.

Ruth and Naomi’s Mission, which has recently undergone one expansion, is now set to launch another – this one geared to helping women. (See story, page 3.)

Meanwhile, progress on the long-sought-after Health and Housing Contact Centre, which has been lurching along for years, took an important step forward last week.

Work on the facility has begun – nearly four years after a local committee agreed that more needed to be done for the city’s homeless and at risk.

All three facilities address differing aspects of the same issue. But together they form an important component in the community’s response to those less fortunate.

And that is good news for Chilliwack.

Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Indeed, experience in other cities has shown that an investment in prevention and active support pays lasting dividends. Not only are individuals more likely to succeed in finding stable housing and independent income, they are less likely to put a strain on an already-taxed medical system.

Finding all the partners can be challenge, as the Contact Centre has shown. But the effort will be worth it. Not only will we get more bang for our social service buck, we will continue creating a more caring and compassionate community.