Homelessness and Housing. The First of My Five Priorities for the Next Term of Regional Council.

My pledge: I will work to get funding to build more homes for the homeless with supports. I will continue to work on the building and repair of affordable housing.

 

I went to my daughter’s apartment at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning to pick her up for her 25 km run at Pinehurst. (The Run for the Toad). I stepped into her apartment vestibule and there were two teen-age girls sleeping on the floor. One of them woke up when I began to dial my daughter’s apartment.

I said,”There are shelters you can go to. They have space.”

The girl said,” It’s full.”

I said, “If you ask there should be a motel room available if everything is full.”

I could see she was considering that.

On our way to Pinehurst, I said to my daughter that maybe this was their first night homeless but she pointed out that they smelled, so had probably been homeless for awhile. My daughter lives near Victoria Park and while she is sympathetic to the homeless, particularly teen-age girls, she doesn’t want them sleeping on the floor in her vestibule. Especially when we are now supposed to have enough shelter beds.

We were also concerned because not all of the men and teen-aged boys hanging around in the park are people those girls should associate with.

Another Out of the Cold site closed this past week. That makes 5 of the 7 volunteer-run church sites closed. Fortunately, the YWCA and Mary’s Place has stepped up with a 50 cot temporary location in a community room.I should point out that Out of the Cold opens on November 1st but there are shelter beds.

What can we do about homelessness?

The Homeless Hub website says the following about homelessness:

Ending homelessness means doing things differently, and not simply managing the problem through emergency services and supports such as shelters and soup kitchens. When people come to depend on emergency services without access to permanent housing and necessary supports, this leads to declining health and well-being, and most certainly an uncertain future.

When I was a librarian at a public library, we always had the homeless sitting in the library and looking at the newspapers. Shelters close in the day, other places only open for meals.

The best way to help the homeless is to get them a home, often with supports.

There are two types of homeless. First those who are temporarily homeless: teenagers kicked out of their home, men without a home due to family problems or job loss, mothers and children homeless due to domestic violence, evicted families. While not easy situations, these people can be helped to find new homes. Those under threat of eviction can go to the rent bank or other programs. This does not mean that we have enough affordable or supportive housing for all who need it, we don’t, but progress is being made.

The next group is those with mental health or addiction problems that are hard to serve. They may not want to go to a shelter for various reasons. I saw two men sleeping in an ATM vestibule as I passed by from attending an event the other night. What do we do?

We need more outreach workers to help the hard to house. We need, as always, when the problem is the least of our people: more supports, more mental health and addictions programs, nore housing with supports.  It is worth the cost.

A few years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote “Million Dollar Murray” about a homeless man who used up paramedic, police and  hospital resources at a tremendous rate. The people who run Supportive Housing of Waterloo have proof that the number of emergency calls surrounding some of their permanently housed homeless have dropped. The people now have supportive workers in their building that they can interact with.

Obviously, I am running on continuing the work that the Region of Waterloo is doing to build more affordable housing.  The Region, the Province and the Feds must work together to help house the chronic homeless. We also need to repair the housing built in the 60s,  70s and 80s that is now reaching the end of its life. New housing or rent subsidies for those in need of affordable housing are also needed, although the region is in the forfront compared to other cities in the province.

AS shown by Million Dollar Murray, it actually costs us less in the long run to help people.

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