Two hands… one to help yourself and one to help another

I’m sitting on the train on my way to work and when you really don’t want to make eye contact with someone you begin to read the subway ads. I glanced over a couple and then came across a Covenant House advertisement. It read “How Young Do they have to be before we give a damn?”.

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An advertisement created by Covenant House Toronto which I saw on my train ride (Covenant House, 2017)

I feel as if since after taking a week-intensive class focused on homelessness in the Canadian Society that I am seeing more of it daily. Or maybe, I am beginning to really take in these ads and understand the need of them. The Covenant House is not just an emergency youth shelter, but also provides services, programs and guidance towards adulthood for youth experiencing homelessness (Covenant House, 2017). Most people would look at this ad and think “Why should I donate my money, why don’t they just get a job, or why don’t they just get city funding”, which are reasonable questions but the answers are not simple. I always tend to ask the last question as to why they don’t get funding from the city, but it all depends on whether or not the city wants to give them funding. A lot of agencies are allocated some tax dollars, but then have to apply for additional funding in order to keep their doors open.

There is so much money which circulates around the City and yet where I feel the money needs to be spent, it is not. Governments spend roughly more than $4 billion a year in order to deal with homelessness in Canada (Gillies, 2012). It actually costs more money maintaining homelessness than to end it. Until the government decides to take action organizations such as the Covenant House will rely on people’s donations in order to continue helping people with needs.

For more information on donating to the Covenant House and letting the youth know you give a damn see the following link: Covenant House Donations

Sources:

Covenant House. (2017). Covenant House – Homeless Youth. Retrieved from https://www.covenanthousetoronto.ca/homeless-youth/Home.aspx

Gillies, B. (2012). Giving the homeless a place to live costs less than providing shelters and emergency services. Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/10/15/giving_the_homeless_a_place_to_live_costs_less_than_providing_shelters_and_emergency_services.html

 

 

Conor’s Story: Talks with Street Youth

Reimagining the Response to Youth Homelessness: Conor’s Story (Homeless Hub, 2014)

I came across the Homeless Hub website once before but this time I decided to listen to podcasts they created. The Homeless Hub does episodes which focus on different aspects of homelessness such as youth homelessness, domestic violence issues, and Indigenous individuals. The Homeless Hub was created in order to provide a site where all the collected information about homelessness in Canada was together (Homeless Hub, 2014).

There’s a lot of homelessness that we do not see because not all homelessness includes being on the street. The different types of homelessness include being unsheltered, emergency sheltered, provisionally accommodated, and at risk homelessness (Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, 2012). The podcast I listened to was a story from a youth named Conor who experienced homelessness and was able to come out of it. He left his home around his 16th birthday and was later able to get into a transitional housing program (Homeless Hub, 2014). He has experienced all forms of homeless from being in shelters, group homes, the streets, and couch surfing. Conor touched upon a lot of issues that homeless youth face such as social assistance being poorly designed, and how hard it is to exit the street life since youth have not developed the skills to live on their own.

There is a lot of stigma associated with homeless youth because people automatically think that they chose to be there because they did not want to live with their parents. However, that is not always the case. They could be coming from an abusive household or have parents who are substance abusers, and therefore live in a toxic environment and NEED to leave. Conor is now enrolled at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. Take a look at his story and hear from someone who experienced homelessness as a youth before.

Sources:

Homeless Hub. (2014). Homeless Hub Podcast [Ep 2]: Reimagining the Response to Youth Homelessness. Retrieved from http://homelesshub.ca/resource/homeless-hub-podcast-ep-2-reimagining-response-youth-homelessness

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (2012) Canadian Definition of Homelessness. Homeless Hub. Retrieved from http://www.homelesshub.ca/homelessdefinition/

Will You Be Gentrifyed Next?

My friend told me the other day that her family has to find new housing by the end of the year because her neighbourhood is being re-constructed. In other words, gentrification is happening. She lives in Lawrence Heights also known as the “Jungle”, which is Toronto’s largest public housing community. The plan is to turn the area into new subsidized housing and market-priced units; a revitalization project they call it (Novakovic, 2016). Areas such as these including Reagent Park, Alexandra Park, and Leslie Nymark have been undergoing new projects in order to “change the setting”. She is not really happy about it because she’s been living there her whole life and has been told to basically pack up her stuff and find housing somewhere else. However, as we all know finding housing in the City of Toronto at an affordable rate is hard. So I was wondering as to where she and her family would go.

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At the yellow star is where my friend lives, and her housing unit is in phase one of the revitalization project. Image provided by TCHC (Novakovic, 2016).

This whole revitalization project can also be looked at as gentrification. Gentrification has been considered an urban phenomenon associated with the renovation of old residential areas (Walks and Maaranen, 2008). Walks and Maaraneen (2008) did a study on the neighbourhood gentrification occurring in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver and what they found is what gentrification does is remove the low-income households and turn it into a working-class community. There are positive outcomes of gentrification such as better access to services such as schools and parks, and there is an improvement in building structure. However, there are also many negative factors such as the lower-income population not being able to pay for these services. Also, those who are forced out of the area have to find housing in remote areas of Toronto. People who live in these low-income households are typically a part of the marginalized community and have to live on the outskirts of Toronto in apartments, relying solely on public transit in order to make ends meet.

It looks as if the poor are being hidden among those who are rich. You see these nice condos downtown for instance, and then have a bunch of people experiencing homelessness sleeping outside of them. They literally have nowhere else to go, and most of these condos stay empty. It is smart for Toronto to build more sustainable housing by replacing old areas, but it also looks as if they are freeing up area in order to create market-priced housing. It does not seem as if the focus is to create affordable housing for people who require them. I feel bad for my friend who has to find a new relocation unit since its obviously going to impact her families’ social and mental health. It is not easy to just relocate to an area that you have been all your life especially if your support networks are located in that area (August, 2014). I for one live in a TCHC community and understand the relationships people develop which they rely on such as school, work, daycare, etc. Possibly the whole gentrification of Toronto is leading to the increase in those experiencing homelessness. Who knows, maybe my neighbourhood will be gentrifyed next…

Sources:

August, M. (2014). How ‘revitalization’ is leading to displacement in Regent Park. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/05/05/how_revitalization_is_leading_to_displacement_in_regent_park.html

Novakovic, S. (2016). Lawrence Heights Demolition Kicks Off Largest Redevelopment Project in TCHC History. Retrieved from http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2015/10/lawrence-heights-demolition-kicks-largest-redevelopment-project-tchc-history

Walks, R. A., & Maaranen, R. (2008). Neighbourhood Gentrification and upgrading in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Centre for Urban and Community Study,43, 1-9. doi:13978077271467

We Need Harm Reduction

Harm reduction sites… “I don’t want people doing drugs in my neighbourhood”. Well, the truth is people are already doing drugs in your neighbourhood so why not have them do it safely.  Harm Reduction is a set of policies, programmes, and practices that focus on reducing the negative aspects of legal and illegal (psychoactive) drugs without focusing on stopping the use of them (Carter & MacPherson, 2013). Harm Reduction focuses on education, distribution of safe supplies, and program in order to prevent and treat overdoses. It has been proven that harm reduction is beneficial and helps to save lives. However, there’s a stigma against providing drug users a safe environment. A stigma that if a person chooses to put themselves at harms risk so why should they be helped.

There has been an association seen with an increase in homelessness and drug use. Vancouver experienced this forcefully when cheaper drugs were available and there was an increase in poverty (Carter and MacPherson, 2013). Vancouver Costal Health opened up a legal supervised injection site in 2003; the first in North America (Carter and MacPherson, 2013; D’Angelo, 2017). The start of this service has been a model injection site for health areas across North America due to its positive outcomes. Many of the clients are people have been drug user for years and have developed a loving and trusting relationship with many of the workers which will then lead them sometimes to either detoxing or look for some counselling.

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Supplies Harm Reduction sites provide to users in their facility such as needles, sterile water, matches, cookers, and bands (Cavalieri, 2016)

In Toronto, there is The Works which started in 1989 focusing on needle exchange and recently has expanded to more harm reduction services (City of Toronto, 2017). Toronto has finally implemented safe injection sites in order to reduce the amount of drug overdoses and the spread of disease (Cavalieri, 2016). There needs to be a push in more Canadian cities towards Harm Reduction sites because it helps and it works. We cannot as a group understand why someone may rely on drugs, but Harm Reduction helps provide people safety which can then lead to a decrease in homeless deaths. In addition, it helps to decrease the spread of communicable diseases such as HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis C. Many community organizations that also focus on Harm Reduction must apply yearly for funding from their municipalities but I think if something works then the funding should just be given. When you put positive into something you only get more positive things out of it.

Sources:

Carter, C. I., & MacPherson, D. (2013). Getting to Tomorrow: A Report on Canadian Drug Policy (pp. 41-48, Rep.). Vancouver, BC: Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

Cavalieri, W. (2016). Supervised drug injection sites in Toronto – it’s time. NOW Toronto. Retrieved from https://nowtoronto.com/news/supervised-drug-injection-sites-in-toronto-%E2%80%93-it%E2%80%99s-time/

City of Toronto. (2017). 25 Years of The Works – Harm Reduction – Alcohol and Other Drugs | City of Toronto. Retrieved from https://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=b59f2acbda21b410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

D’Angelo, A. D. (2017). Insite. Retrieved from http://www.vch.ca/public-health/harm-reduction/supervised-injection-sites

Homeless people in Toronto are dying at a rate of more than two per week on average

The Church of Holy Trinity may have to build a bigger memorial in order to record the deaths of those experiencing homelessness. Last week during our street walk we came across the Toronto Homeless Memorial which was started by the Church of Holy Trinity. Sadly, those experiencing homelessness in Toronto are dying at a rate of more than two per week (Ormbsy & Wallace, 2017). I find that this is ridiculous considering how wealthy a city like Toronto is, and to have people living and dying on the street is unacceptable; policy makers need to look into their actions and really focus on ending the homelessness issue. These are people who have family members and are loved but are unable to receive the help they need to, and action must be taken. 

Flowers rest on the Toronto Homeless Memorial, an unofficial record of homeless people in the GTA who have died since the 1980s. The city's homeless death rate for 2017, if it continues at two per week through December, would top 100 — the most ever recorded in Toronto.The Church of Holy Trinity’s Toronto Homeless Memorial has set a staggering record of death rates for the year of 2017. Let alone there has been 27 homeless deaths in three months  (Wallace, 2017).

The city’s funding needs to be properly allocated to accessible resources such as harm reduction sites, shelters, and warming centers (Ormbsy & Wallace, 2017). These resources contribute largely to the reduction in deaths of those experiencing homelessness. Let alone, another major factor is there is a decrease of affordable housing within the city. With the increase in housing prices there is an increase in homeless deaths, and this negative association should not be seen. In 2015 the number of household on waiting lists was 171 360, and typically these households have to wait on an average of three to five years to receive housing (ONPHA, 2016). Therefore, if households have to wait this long in order to receive affordable housing then they are sometimes left to the cold streets. The streets are rough, and I am not surprised that the amount of homeless deaths have increased, what else was expected when they are to do when obtaining housing is impossible. It also comes alarming during the winter and summer months since the city experiences many wind-chilling and heat-wrenching days. Opening areas for those experiencing homelessness to stay warm or cool is a problem itself for the city, so to provide someone an area to rest there head would be a greater problem. I don’t see solutions rising anytime soon to slowing the rate of homeless deaths until we begin to put the money where it is needed. Also, if with people not viewing those experiencing homelessness as actual people, then the list will increase because the homeless will feel as if no one would care if they died anyways. 

Sources:

ONPHA. (2016). ONPHA’s final report on waiting lists statistics for Ontario (Rep.). Retrieved http://qc.onpha.on.ca/flipbooks/WaitingListReport/files/assets/common/downloads/publication.pdf

Ormbsy, M., & Wallace, K. (2017). 27 homeless deaths in Toronto in just three months. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/05/25/27-homeless-deaths-in-toronto-in-just-three-months.html

Wallace, K. (2017). Toronto Homeless Memorial [Photograph]. Toronto Star File Photo, Toronto.

What’s this all about?

In order to combat homelessness and help to end the dilemma, it requires public awareness, and not just educating people on homelessness but rather how the effects of society impact those experiencing homelessness. In addition, how the views society have formed has created issues with sheltering systems and the overall treatment of those experiencing homelessness.

Within Canada in the 1990s, the federal government stopped

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The State of Homelessness in Canada statistics (Gaetz et al, 2014)

funding for affordable housing which resulted in a great increase in Canada’s homelessness crisis (Gaetz et al, 2014). In addition, factors such an inadequate minimum wage, lack of social assistance, the decrease of affordable housing, and the discrimination of certain marginalized groups have been key contributions. We know the problem’s which contribute towards homelessness but have yet to find a solution.

Municipalities are now responsible for funding affordable housing, which is the key solution towards ending homelessness. However, municipalities must vote and decide as to where the city or town funding will go. A lot of it is based on what the people want in the city. Canadian’s see homelessness now as something which is ordinary, and that it will eventually be solved on its own. Heart for the Homeless sets out to bring about more public awareness about the homelessness crisis in Canada.

The reporting system is being used more frequently and generating a lot of public awareness, however, Heart for the Homeless has it all. In order to invoke social change and see some differences within the government, it requires educating the society about homelessness first. In addition, reducing the stereotypes and stigmas associated with those experiencing homelessness such as marginalized communities, substance abusers, and LGBTQQIP2SAA.

Sources:

Gaetz, S., Gulliver, T., & Richter, T. (2014). The State of Homelessness in Canada: 2014. Toronto: The Homeless Hub Press.