A new study suggests it’s far cheaper to give a homeless person a place to live than to provide a patchwork of emergency services.

The study by Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network, pulls together bits and pieces of research from across Canada and the United States.

He finds that in Canada, the status quo in dealing with homeless people is expensive.

He says governments are spending at least $4.5 billion a year dealing with homeless people, including the cost of emergency health care, mental health services, law enforcement, shelters and food banks.

That’s because their use of the health system is high and unpredictable, because they often have run-ins with the justice system, and because upon release from jail, they often end up homeless again.

Recent research shows that providing chronically homeless people with supports and housing can save taxpayers 54 cents on the dollar compared to the current approach.