Housing the homeless reduces crime, suggests study

It could be a groundbreaking way of getting people out of poverty and keeping them out of jail.

A Simon Fraser University study is suggesting housing the homeless in market rental apartments around the city can reduce their interaction with the justice system.

Lead investigator Julian Somers says his team has found the first evidence that housing and support are effective in crime reduction.

The Vancouver At-Home study placed 500 homeless people into three settings — typical care from city services; group housing with on-site support; and rental units, at market rates, scattered around the city.

“Both of the settings we designed, the group housing and the scattered site housing, had better outcomes, less involvement with the justice system, than the folks who were randomized to usual care,” explains Somers.

“But we also found that the people randomized to the scattered sites had the lowest justice system encounters of all three groups.”

Somers admits it’s an expensive option — support services are also provided because many homeless people are dealing with mental illness — but so is the status quo, including court and hospital costs.

He says landlords participating in the study have been very cooperative.

“These are landlords renting out units at market rates and we didn’t here ‘no’ a lot. These are landlords who say they have no problem renting them to people who come from homelessness. They elect to do this because they don’t see any reason not to,” Somers told News1130.

The study was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE (the Public Library of Science). Further publications are expected from the nearly $30-million research project over the next year.