A pilot program at Shelter House is working according to a new study.
The Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. Presented its findings to city council Monday night on the Kwae Kii Win Centre, an alcohol management program that's been operating for nearly two years.It's one of five alcohol management programs across the country that looks to stabilize homeless people with chronic alcohol problems by giving them a place to live and offering alcohol throughout the day.
Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. Director Tim Stockwell said the evidence shows harm reduction, taking pressure off of emergency services and giving the 15 clients access to care and support have all been met by the Thunder Bay program.
The study compared 18 people who have used the program with 20 people who could be eligible but weren't involved. It showed that those in the program were less likely to drink other forms of alcohol, like hairspray or mouthwash. They were also less likely to be admitted to hospital by 37 per cent and detox centres by 88 per cent. Contact with police was also down by 42 per cent when in the program.
Mayor Keith Hobbs said he's heard from some people that the cost of the program, around $500,000 per year including $70,000 from the city, isn't worth it. He said he completely disagrees. Shelter House executive director Patty Hajdu said studies have shown it costs around $130,000 per year per person when they're on the street.
"This is one of the best investments we've made as a council," Hobbs said.
Many in the program have lost touch with family over the years because of addiction. Hajdu said many have been able to reconnect because of the program and some have even gone to live with relatives. Many reported feeling safer, healthier and others were able to find housing.
"This program seemed to give them their dignity," Stockwell said.
Stockwell said while the program is working, it's not the only answer to servicing such a vulnerable population.
The study is available on the Shelter House website.