Homeless people stay sicker for longer and cost the health system more money, data shows

Homeless people spend twice as long in hospital and cost the system more than double than people who have a place to live, a new analysis of data shows.

Last year across Canada, nearly 30,000 people who were homeless were hospitalized and spent an average of 15 days in the hospital, compared to an eight-day average stay for people who are not homeless.

“Housing has to be considered a health issue. Homelessness is a health problem,” said study co-author Cheryl Forchuk, the assistant scientific director at the Lawson Health Research Institute. “We need to see housing as a health intervention, and an integral part of a health strategy.”

The average cost per stay for someone without a home was $16,800, compared with a national average of $7,800, researchers say.

The top three most common reasons for hospital stays were substance use, schizophrenic disorders, and cellulitis, a bacterial infection, the data shows. A quarter of hospitalizations are for issues related to substance use.

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