Category Archives: homelessness

Edmonton targets ‘frequent flyers’

Edmonton targets the top 50 users of it’s social services for housing

A new project spearheaded by the Edmonton Police Service will target the top 50 heavy users of the city’s police, medical and inner-city services. The project is aimed at better co-ordinating efforts among the agencies that work the most with the city’s chronically homeless.

“Without looking at specifics here, we’re finding we’re all talking about the same people,” police Chief Rod Knecht told the Journal this week. “The same people we’re arresting 50 times a year are the same people that are being transported by the ambulance 50 times a year, same people in the emergency ward, same people the shelters are dealing with.”

The key, Knecht says, is to focus on these so-called frequent flyers who place such a heavy burden on resources and fill the gaps in service.

“We think there’s a better way to keep them out of the system. It’s costing a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort,” he said.

A chronically homeless person costs the system about $100,000 per year, according to a presentation at Thursday’s police commission meeting by Jay Freeman, the executive director of the Edmonton Homeless Commission. By comparison, a person helped off the street and given the necessary support to stay housed costs taxpayers about $35,000 per year, Freeman said in his presentation.

Each year, police receive around 35,000 calls for service related to the city’s homeless, mentally ill and addicted populations, Knecht said. Each one of those calls takes an average of 104 minutes to complete.

“I think, if we do this properly, we’ll actually save money,” Knecht said. “And I don’t think little money — I think big money.”

But, he says, that’s not the project’s motivation.

“The big thing is, you’re going to be taking care of the most vulnerable people in the community. That’s a lofty goal (and) I think that’s a commendable goal for a city, a community, to be involved in,” Knecht said.

Saskatoon’s numbers are about the same.  It costs $100,000 for a chronically homeless here as well.  It’s way cheaper to find housing.

Making a difference this Christmas

Every Christmas individual, organizations, and businesses ask shelters what they can do to help those that are homeless.  It’s part of the holiday season.  Long before people fought the crowds looking for Boxing Day sales, it used to be the day where people used to box up their food scraps and give them to the poor.  While food scraps aren’t needed these days, there are many in Saskatoon with real needs this Christmas.  Here are some ideas on how you can help.

In putting together a list of things that people want, you need to realize that many people have lost everything except for the clothes on their back when they end up in the shelters and often have been in this state for a long time.  On top of that, many shelters are busier over the holidays as people come inside over the holidays or find that they can’t bear to stay where they are over.  Toss in things like season affective disorder (the depression that many have over the holidays), separation from families and frustration over their state of housing, it’s a busy and difficult time for shelter providers and any help that people can provide is appreciated.  

For many being in a shelter allows them get a hot shower and cleaned up.  Because of the numbers of people needing the services, shelters tend to buy in bulk and in individual packages for ease of distribution.  Some simple luxuries like a bottle of body wash, shampoo, or conditioner have always been warmly appreciated as we have given them out.  People tend to feel better about themselves when they feel and smell clean. 

In shelters, the razors that are given out are of such low quality that I refuse to accept thanks when I give them out.  Single blade, double blade, it doesn’t matter as they are all horrible.  Most men and women have to get two of them just to shave.  There are good disposable razors on the market but what I suggest are the store brands sold by the department stores and pharmacies.  They are higher quality and the replacement blades a lot cheaper.   If you are inclined, toss in some shaving cream.  It builds self-esteem and is another thing that help them as they take the steps towards finding employment, an apartment or just reintegrating back into society.

When the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban bought the team, he went out and bought the best towels that money could buy as he felt that a nice towel was a wonderful luxury.  Visiting NBA players agreed as they took the towels from the Mavericks locker room and kept them despite their salaries.  For most of the men and women that I work with in the shelters, none of them have a towel which means that on top of it being a constant need, it gives them something that they will need both in the shelter and when they move out on their own.

Many of the men that are in shelters are trying to work to get back out on their own. Which in the winter means a lot of work outside.  While many don’t have a lot of job skills, they head down to an temporary labour place which means a lot of jobs which are out of the cold. Work brings in money but also allows a lot of them to prove themselves.  Things like winter gloves, toques, warm socks, insoles, hard warmers, or a fleece to layer are critical in working that first winter job and keeps them going until they get that first paycheck.  I am always surprised to look back and see for many men, their pathway to housing started with a donation of winter work gear at Christmas.

Along side of the winter work gear, I include an insulated travel mug and a thermos.  It’s hard to spend a day working in Saskatchewan winters and when men have been given these in the past, they talk about what a difference it makes on the job site. 

You also have the essentials which are often underwear and socks.  While Saskatoon is generous with it’s donations to shelters with clothes, few donate underwear and socks because we tend to wear them out and toss them out. For 90% of the people that come into the facility I work at, they need socks or underwear, especially in winter.

Being homeless is hard anytime of the year but even harder over the holidays.  In all of your giving this year, consider those that have nothing.  It could be the start of something big.  Just remember that before you go out and buy, call the shelter you want to give to, they will give you more refined list of ways you can help.

Housing the homeless costs less the putting them in shelters

I’ve been saying this for years

Last month, the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) released a compilation report on the costs of caring for Canadians on the street. While homeless advocates usually make appeals to compassion and morality when championing policy reforms to help the most impoverished of this country’s citizens, the report attempts to illustrate empirically the financial impact of homelessness.

What author Stephen Gaetz makes clear is that calculating the cost of homelessness must not only account for shelters or soup kitchens, but also peripheral services, such as health care and the justice system, that homeless people come into contact with more frequently than society at large. As they are often poorly nourished, unable to engage in adequate sanitation practices, and live in settings where exposure to communicable disease is high, for instance, homeless Canadians experience a serious deterioration of their physical health. In addition, 40 per cent of this population suffers from mental health issues. As a result, they are hospitalized five times more often than the general public during any given year, usually for longer periods.

According to a 2007 Wellesley Institute report cited by the CHRN, the average monthly expense of housing a homeless person in a Toronto hospital is $10,900. To provide them with a shelter bed costs $1,932. But here is where the data may surprise you: Putting a roof over that same person’s head, either with rent supplements or social housing, would require just $701 or $199.92, respectively. In fact, a similar study conducted in British Columbia discovered that province’s homeless population currently costs the public system $55,000 per person per year, but if every homeless person were instead provided with adequate housing and supports, they would require just $37,000 — saving the province $211 million annually.

When it comes to social policy, Canadians are often told there must be a balance between compassion and affordability. As it turns out, in this case, the right thing to do is also the least expensive. This should perhaps come as no surprise, as in life generally a proactive strategy is almost always more efficient than a reactive one. Still, there is now hard data to show funding emergency services, shelters, and day programs is just not as cost-effective as providing homeless citizens with a place to live and the social supports to help them stay there

I Still Have a Soul

The spec promo commercial centers on a homeless man who is looking to better himself, raising money every which way he can in order to pay for training as a boxer at a local gym. We get glimpses of his life on the streets, his makeshift sleeping accommodations near train tracks, and the various means he uses to make a living-or in this case to graduate to some semblance of a livelihood in the boxing ring. 

Football and homelessness

McAwesome

Mark lost one of his Nike football gloves two practices into the season.  He thinks it may be at the cabin but it’s more expensive to drive out there than it was to get him another pair.  Wendy took him to Olympian Sports but the women helping him got him non-tackified gloves that were way too small so that wasn’t going to work.  I told Mark to come down to The Lighthouse yesterday and I would take him to Sport Chek and we would get him some gloves that fit.

Mark couldn’t find his cell phone and was late coming down which was okay because I was busy taking a benign interview into a controversial one and was tied up.  He did get down there, got harassed by our Housing Plus Coordinator, Chris Powell and we headed out.  Outside The Lighthouse, we ran into a couple of guys who I introduced Mark to and told them why we were heading out early.  They are both nice guys who started to give Mark a hard time about football.  I found out that one of them used to play for the Saskatoon Hilltops.  He told us some fun stories, gave Mark a simulated head slap (don’t worry, it’s a football move) and had a good talk about the difference that David Dube is making with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football game experience.  We all took some time to explain to Mark what stickum is.

As Mark and I walked to the car he asked me why they were at The Lighthouse.  I explained that with some it’s an injury, others it can be illness, or sometimes bad luck and places like The Lighthouse are the best places to start over again.