A new project spearheaded by the Edmonton Police Service will target the top 50 heavy users of the cityâ€™s police, medical and inner-city services. The project is aimed at better co-ordinating efforts among the agencies that work the most with the cityâ€™s chronically homeless.
â€œWithout looking at specifics here, weâ€™re finding weâ€™re all talking about the same people,â€ police Chief Rod Knecht told the Journal this week. â€œThe same people weâ€™re arresting 50 times a year are the same people that are being transported by the ambulance 50 times a year, same people in the emergency ward, same people the shelters are dealing with.â€
The key, Knecht says, is to focus on these so-called frequent flyers who place such a heavy burden on resources and fill the gaps in service.
â€œWe think thereâ€™s a better way to keep them out of the system. Itâ€™s costing a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort,â€ he said.
A chronically homeless person costs the system about $100,000 per year, according to a presentation at Thursdayâ€™s police commission meeting by Jay Freeman, the executive director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission. By comparison, a person helped off the street and given the necessary support to stay housed costs taxpayers about $35,000 per year, Freeman said in his presentation.
Each year, police receive around 35,000 calls for service related to the cityâ€™s homeless, mentally ill and addicted populations, Knecht said. Each one of those calls takes an average of 104 minutes to complete.
â€œI think, if we do this properly, weâ€™ll actually save money,â€ Knecht said. â€œAnd I donâ€™t think little money â€” I think big money.â€
But, he says, thatâ€™s not the projectâ€™s motivation.
â€œThe big thing is, youâ€™re going to be taking care of the most vulnerable people in the community. Thatâ€™s a lofty goal (and) I think thatâ€™s a commendable goal for a city, a community, to be involved in,â€ Knecht said.
Saskatoon’s numbers are about the same. Â It costs $100,000 for a chronically homeless here as well. Â It’s way cheaper to find housing.