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New study shows financial impact of homelessness on our health-care system

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A new study out of London, Ont. lays out the cost of the homelessness crisis on our health-care system.

Almost 30,000 Canadians were homeless when admitted to and/or discharged from a hospital, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The report finds that a hospital stay for a person without a home is typically twice as long and costs twice as much.

“That's because when someone comes to hospital experiencing homelessness, they tend to be very sick,” said the study’s co-author, Cheryl Forchuk, the assistant scientific director at Lawson Health Research Institute.

The study found, on average, a person experiencing homelessness is in hospital for 15 days compared to the national average, which is eight days. The average cost per stay was $16,800, compared to the national average of $7,800.

“Almost anything you look at with the homeless population, anything related to health, people are going to do worse if you don't have a home,” Forchuk said.

For outside agencies that are trying to find people stable housing, these finding are not surprising.

“Some individuals literally were digging holes in the ground in order to get away from the cold,” said Joe Mancini, executive director at The Working Centre in Kitchener, Ont.

Mancini points to the fact that basic amenities, like heat and running water, are vital to staying healthy.

“That's where the health issues start to creep up,” he said. “Your immune system breaks down. Things like a flu gets worse, pneumonia gets worse. And so that's why the hospital visits are so high.”

The study’s author and Mancini believe the solution is simple but requires investment.

“There's an understanding in the system, the hospital system, how much homelessness adds to the cost of the hospital system and we can reduce those by creating more housing, by creating way more supports in the community,” suggested Mancini.

CTV News reached out to Grand River Hospital, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and the Region of Waterloo but they were not available to participate in this story. 

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