JordonCooper Rotating Header Image

work

Night nurseries: Sweden’s round-the-clock childcare

This is an interesting solution to childcare as we move to a 24 hour society

Sweden has long had a glowing reputation for its generous childcare facilities and is regularly ranked as one of the best places to raise a family.

Each child is guaranteed a place at a public preschool and no parent is charged more than three per cent of their salary, with fees capped at SEK 1260 ($197, £132) a month for the country’s highest earners.

All other costs are covered by the state, which spends SEK 56.6bn ($8.9bn, £5.0bn) a year subsidising preschool services, more than its annual defence budget.

Most public nurseries offer care from around 06:00 to 18:00. But with the numbers of parents working flexible or unconventional hours going up, local councils are increasingly providing overnight and weekend services.

In south-east Sweden, the small, former industrial city of Norrkoping is among those already leading the way in out-of-hours care. There are four council-run nurseries open overnight here, the first of which launched 20 years ago.

“At first it was very hard to take my kids to sleep somewhere else and my heart was aching,” says mother Maria Klytseroff, 39, a part-time care assistant for people with learning difficulties.

Her children spend about two or three nights a week at one of the preschools, which is more like a homely apartment than an education centre.

“I am a single mum and I wanted to go back to my job, which is at night,” explains Maria.

“The children soon got used to it, they have friends and they adore the workers who look after them.”

Eighteen children are registered at the nursery.

The toddlers arrive in time to eat dinner, clean their teeth and then enjoy a bedtime story with a member of staff.

Two-year-old Leon is dressed in blue striped pyjamas and cuddles several teddy bears as he curls up beneath a duvet covered in cartoon characters.

You can argue all you want about whether or not this is right but a change in the economy means more of us work different shifts and not everyone has family they can depend on.  It does allow people who would otherwise be out of the workforce be able to participate.  Time will tell what the impact is going to be on the children.

Friday

My intention was to get into work early on Friday and so I could get out in lots of time to go to the gym.  I also wanted to get into my office before the plumbers came in (no heat at all in my office this week) and get some work done in some peace and quiet.  The good news is that the plumbers are gone and I have a brand new cutting edge radiator.  The bad news is that I still have no heat.  If there is some good news is that Chris’s office has heat (according to some) but it was still colder than mine which has no heat.   Then again I think we call that a lose, lose situation.

We did rearrange our office.  Both Jeff and I have our office set up so we are less approachable and harder to talk to according to experts.  That didn’t work out so well as we still had a plethora of staff coming in to chat.  We may need to install a moat.  One idea we did have was to install a Les Nessman type wall in our office.  The only staff that got the WKRP reference put on up and now we have a green tape line going down the middle of my office.  The bad news is that my fridge is on Jeff’s part of the office now.

As I was about to leave our two complex needs support staff wandered in as they host a coffee house on Friday nights for our clients.  Since they don’t actually report to me, the conversation is always pretty stress free.  Our conversation moved over the other side of the building where I decided to stay for coffee house.  After we were done serving I took an hour to sit down and talk with some residents who were all loitering around.  I had helped all of them over the last couple of weeks and all had made some really significant process towards housing (they all had found jobs and were working).  Over the next hour we just talked about hunting, cars, guns, rural life, how to cook wild game (I am told that you cook it in bacon), and life at The Lighthouse.  I was also criticized for not liking the coffee at The Lighthouse.  I criticized them back for liking the coffee at The Lighthouse. 

I forget sometimes how much I enjoy this part of the job.  There is paperwork, reports, and plans to make but they don’t really give anything back to you.  Sitting down and chilling out with some residents and listening to them is what gives back.  It’s not always like this, many times there are crisis’ and problems but on a night where I just sat back and listened to some people working hard and making progress, it reminds me that we are making a difference.

Out of the Cold

Homeless feet

As an idealist, I would like to believe that the social safety net in this province worked a lot a better than it does and on nights like tonight, no one would be left outside where they could possibly freeze.  Most nights the system works but there are some nights people that are outside and as we have seen, some freeze to death.

The reason they are outside is that:

  • They don’t qualify for Social Services emergency funding because
    • The are receiving what is called Transitional Employment Assistance and don’t qualify for emergency assistance (which makes no sense to me)
    • Their worker decided that when it is 30 below, it is a good time to decide to make teach them personal responsibility.
  • Other emergency services won’t fund them
  • They have a fear of using social agencies.
  • They are banned from all facilities.

In full disclosure I have banned people before and will do it again.  The reason we ban people because they are too dangerous to other people (arsonist, violent, drug dealer) or are a danger to staff (predatorily sex offender, violence against staff in the past), or are a dangerous to themselves (they do something where like 20 people want to beat them up… it happens).  We have to balance the safety of the facility, clients, and staff vs. the needs of the individual.  While its easy to say that we need to give people another and another chance, when I have done it in the past, people have gotten seriously hurt.

The end result is that they have nowhere to go or no one wants to help them.

What we have done this year is open an Out of the Cold shelter at The Lighthouse.  Technically it isn’t it’s own shelter but a series of protocols that staff follow to make sure that people are housed.  It is a low threshold shelter where the primary importance is to make sure people are warm and safe no matter what the mood is of the system.

It sounds nice but it really isn’t.  Like anything that is a result of a failure of the system, it enables the system to behave badly.  In other cities it allows social worker to not help because there is another safety net that is there and it doesn’t reflect on anyone’s caseload.  It also moves a role that the government is supposed to take a roll in and moves to CBOs which isn’t cool.  If it was a perfect world, it wouldn’t be needed but it isn’t and so we do it.

Of course when we take them in, it becomes our problem.  Some people have fallen through the cracks and just need a break.  Those are a pleasure to deal with.  Others are entitled who believe that the system (which is now The Lighthouse) has to take care of them.  They are not so much fun.

As for the people who need it, it’s been good for them and for the most part good for the staff.  The staff have quite a bit of latitude to book someone in and like we say, “it’s easier to explain to [me] why you did it than explain your actions about why you did not to a coroner”.  In two cases where we have used it, within a day or two the men had found employment and housing really quick.  In other cases there are some mental health or addiction issues that made it harder but that’s part of it as well.  The only negative encounter was that someone started to yell and scream at the staff around 5:30 a.m. but they had stayed the night, were safe, warm, but just a little cranky.  We’ll take that as a win.

As for those that are banned.  Those are the calls that wake Chris Powell and I up in the night (hopefully Chris more than me).  We have worked with staff to give them more latitude but to overturn a ban, they are to call us and we make the final decision.  It’s a hard decision to make.  It’s hard to get banned from The Lighthouse and it means that they are dangerous to others.  We are working on some protocols that will make that happen more but I’ll be honest, it’s the hardest thing to deal with and like I said, when I have overturned bans in the past, people have gotten hurt.  What we are doing is re-assessing things and relying on some good community partners assessments.  If that is a go, we will house them.  Sadly not all community partners can assess someone.  Police officers are good for a lot of things, assessing the behaviour of someone in a shelter is not one of those skills but we also have staff there and most times the cops are quite good about it.  Emergency room staff on the other hand are a lost cause.  They can’t be counted on to give an honest assessment. 

The last category is there are some that are afraid of using social services and that is a post all by itself.  Basically something happened in their past that they associate with social services and for whatever reason, they won’t go back, even though they need help.  Staff house them and we help them in the morning.  

The other weird thing has been that people are coming in because they hear that they can get a shower and cleaned up.  They all tell the frontline staff that it is myself that told them that they can come in (which is weird as I never have). It’s not part of the program but the front desk staff has been accommodating those requests as well.  It’s a hassle with the way our facility is designed but allows people to come out of the cold, warm up, get clean and hopefully feel better about themselves.  We don’t mind offering that service as well and if nothing else, we are making Saskatoon a better smelling place to live in.  That has to be worth something.

The goal is that when we are done our renovations is that we will offer a full urban rest stop type of service.  Cold/hot drinks, washer/dryer, showers, and computers.  We have all the pieces but we will work hard over the next couple of months to integrate them together a little better.  It’s a process but I think we are getting somewhere.

10 Things

As I move into 2013, I took some time to take stock of my life with a few short lists. 

10 Things I Am Content With

  1. Friends and family
  2. Earning sufficient money
  3. Loving being able to make a difference in my job
  4. Living in Saskatoon (and I think making it better for others)
  5. Writing my blog and writing for a larger audience in print
  6. Not having a clue what I will be working on three months from now
  7. I am still curious and am least interested in learning new things
  8. Owning a dog.  While Maggi is the worst dog that I have ever owned, she is still a great addition to the family.  Now if I can only get rid of Hutch.
  9. With some of the projects that we have on the table at work and at home.
  10. Planning the future with Mark, Wendy, and eventually Oliver.

10 Things I Am Not Content With

  1. Fitness
  2. Heath (the diabetes thing and this arm and shoulder that has been bothering me for a year)
  3. The lack of time I have to master new things and for study
  4. How I spend the leisure time in my life (what leisure time?)
  5. The disconnect between Wendy’s and mine work schedules (I tend to work days while she works a lot of evenings).  It’s good for Oliver (as it means less time at a sitter but it is something that neither one of us are happy with).
  6. The quality of my online writing and blogging
  7. Time I spend on things that have very little payoff to the projects that I care about
  8. The lack of time spent at the cabin
  9. The lack of frontline work I do with homeless men and women.  I miss the interactions and problem solving.
  10. Saskatoon has more homeless people now than they ever have, including at the height of the housing boom.  That keeps me motivated.

Here are 10 Small Things I Wish I Did More:

  1. Going to bed early
  2. Seeing the sun rise.
  3. Take more photographs.
  4. Working out more
  5. Travelling and exploring more
  6. Reading books
  7. Going to talks, lectures, events
  8. Spending more time working with front line staff
  9. Using more of my time to help out with some other social problems
  10. Exploring more of Saskatchewan

Here are 10 Things I Waste Time On:

  1. Meetings that could be replaced by a 20 minute phone call
  2. 20 minute phone calls that could be replaced by an email
  3. Social media
  4. Administration.  It’s part of the job and I need to get better at it for no other reason than I won’t have to spend as much time on it.
  5. Time wasted reading about sports that I don’t care about.  Seriously why am I watching curling?
  6. Being unfocused on Twitter and social media in general
  7. Making lists like this.  Seriously.
  8. Projects that don’t matter that I should never have agreed to
  9. Reading about American politics.  I know the U.S. President is the Leader of the Free World and all of that and they seem determined to destroy their own economy but enough is enough.  Hold on, Dick Cheney just tweeted something….
  10. Trying to change partisans’ opinions.  I upset people on the right and the left and to be honest, I give hardcore partisans too much time sometimes when they are never going to agree with me.  It’s time better spent on other things.

10 Things I Want to Do Better

  1. Shoot better video
  2. Learn how to fish (Mark gave Wendy and I fishing rods for Christmas)
  3. Write something better and less passively.
  4. Become a better photographer
  5. Play tennis at a higher level
  6. Spend some more time in the backcountry
  7. Finish some of the feature length posts I have been meaning to do on my blog.
  8. Spend time with friends
  9. Have more time for study
  10. Communicate the issues around homeless, mental health, and social issues more effectively.

The glaring question here is “why don’t I fix this?”  Of course much of 2012 is going to be spent fixing what I can.

When I write stuff down like this, I realize how stupid I am to be frittering away my life at the same time as wishing I had more time.  

How to enjoy Scotch Whiskey

A hilarious video by master blender Richard Patterson on how to enjoy Scotch Whiskey

via

Give the Gift of Hope This Christmas

Backpack for the homelessIn case you are wondering how you can make a difference this Christmas, click here and see how you can partner with The Lighthouse and help those that are homeless and in our supported living facility this holiday season.

Each December, staff go all out and ask each of our residents what they want for Christmas.  For many of them it is the first time they have ever been asked.  We then go out in a blaze of Christmas shopping and purchase gifts for everyone that wants them.  After a flurry of wrapping paper, Scotch tape, and bows, the gifts are given out on Christmas morning.

Partnering with The Lighthouse on this project allows you to make a big difference in not only making someone’s Christmas but also providing them with things that they need to make the transition from homelessness to their new home.

Communications/Public Relations Job at The Lighthouse

Employ

The Lighthouse is looking for a new Communications/Public Relations person to replace DeeAnn (who is moving on to a new position).  If you are interested, here is the job posting on SaskJobs and a more thorough job overview posted over at The Lighthouse’s website.  The job allows you to work with a great group of people (among them Chris Powell and myself) and make a difference in the community solving homeless while working in a pretty neat and diverse community. 

If you are interested, shoot me an email at jordon.cooper@lighthousesaskatoon.org with your resume and cover letter.  Yeah and we are never, ever dressed that well.  It’s a jean’s and t-shirt kind of place… unless it is game day and then it is jeans and a Rider jersey.

Time to Unplug?

Cost Of Daily Interruptions Infographic

The interruptions that come in from Twitter, Facebook, and text messages at work pretty much makes having a meeting or even a conversation impossible some days.  I think we lose half of our working days some day to social media which is really appalling.  With texting making it easy for anyone to get you at anytime, it is almost as if work plays second fiddle to personal correspondence in many places.  It’s no wonder why some organizations pay for voice but don’t give out data plans on their company phones; employees don’t know how to police them.

Affordable Living Apartment at The Lighthouse

Affordable Living Apartment at The Lighthouse Supported Living

This was a quick panorama of one of the one bedroom suites (actually it is a bachelor suite) that is part of The Lighthouse’s Affordable Living Apartments. It is one of the still under construction suites and isn’t quite ready for occupancy but it gives an idea of what they are like.

I took the photo with my iPhone and the Microsoft Photosynth app. I think it turned out okay.

The job description

Elvis Lachance (photo from Facebook)As I got home, I was hit by the news that Elvis Lachance had been murdered in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.  I have known Elvis for years and he has been homeless or incarcerated for the entire time I have known him.  I saw him las Tuesday night as he wandered into the Rook and Raven after City Council was over and was trying to panhandle.  We didn’t have any cash for him and as he was on his way I was thinking that he would benefit from staying at The Lighthouse.  I made a not to talk to him this week before he heard that he had been picked up again and tossed back into the Correctional Centre.  I wrote a note to talk to the Community Chaplain to ask him when Elvis was getting out.   Then I heard that Elvis was found dead in his prison cell this morning.

To put Elvis’ murder in perspective;  he has a huge heart and was incredibly gentle.  He knew sign language at times came in incredibly useful at the Salvation Army when helping house deaf people.  Elvis was the guy that would help people with their plates and food and do everything that he could do to help out.  He was a small guy and was never ever aggressive with anyone.  Some guys fight all of the time on the streets but Elvis was a peacemaker.  In seven years I never saw him once make an aggressive or mean act.  It isn’t right that he is dead tonight and I suspect he is jail for something relatively minor.  As a colleague at another agency said to me tonight, “he was my bud”.

I don’t know how to process the murder of a client.  At one time I keep a significant emotional distance from most of who I deal with, yet at the same time it is guys like Elvis that motivate me to get out of bed in the morning.  I failed him years ago once and he got hurt and I have always carried that with me.  To find out that he is dead really hits me hard.

I get asked why I keep doing this and this year more than any other I ask myself the same question.   There are easier and more profitable ways to make a living than working in an emergency housing provider and I am told they don’t have the same level of stress that this does.  I spent much of the summer pondering a move to Calgary where I could go and see the Calgary Flames and Stampeders and more than anything, not have the stress of working with the hard to house.  In the end we decided to stay because I thought I could make a difference in Saskatoon.

I love Saskatoon and I love working at The Lighthouse but tonight I feel worse than I have in a long time.  It’s going to take a while to leave this behind while at the same time it’s the memory of this absolutely pointless and preventable death that will have me back at my desk tomorrow morning.

I will say that when people like Elvis die in prison, there is something wrong with the justice and correctional systems.  Elvis was maybe 100 pounds and 5’4 inches tall.  He wasn’t a threat to anyone and at the same time could not have defended himself.

Recapping First Tuesday

After DeeAnn spoke to First Tuesday at The 220, Chris Enns interviewed me afterwards for The YXE podcast.   You need to listen for no other reason than to hear how smooth Chris is on the radio.  He is this generations Billy Dee Williams.

Michael Norton: How to buy happiness

At TEDxCambridge, Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness — when you don’t spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending can benefit you, your work, and (of course) other people.

Thanks to Crickle Creek

At The Lighthouse, the Complex Needs Wing staff host Friday Funday’s which are a recreational outing for residents.  Last Friday they went out for a day of golfing at Crickle Creek Pitch & Putt.   The course was a lot of fun for staff and the residents and everyone had a fabulous time.  While golf at Crickle Creek is a tremendous bargain, they donated the time to The Lighthouse which made it even better.  Some photos, videos, and highlights of the afternoon are posted on The Lighthouse site.  I wish I could have been there.

Getting to know Chris Powell

Here is a video that I shot of Chris Powell that explains a bit of his accent (he is from Georgia) and why he works at The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse Credo

I was fooling around with a statement that defines The Lighthouse today.  This is what I came up with and is only a first draft.  I borrowed enough from Johnson and Johnson’s Credo that it is getting really close to plagiarism but I needed a starting point.  Let me know what you think.

The Lighthouse Supported LivingWe believe our first responsibility is to our residents, clients and all others who use our services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality and be focused on the needs of those that need our services. Everyone must be considered as an individual. Respect is the foundation of the everything we do. We respect our clients dignity and respect the merit of their opinions and needs.  We value being an inclusive community, one that welcomes anyone on their stage of life and will walk with them through good and tough times. We respect our facilities because it isn’t just a workplace, it is our residents home.

We are responsible to our employees. They must have a sense of security in their jobs. Compensation must be fair and adequate.  Our work environment must be clean, orderly and safe. We must be mindful of ways to help our employees fulfil their family responsibilities. Employees must feel free to make suggestions and be heard. There must be equal opportunity for employment, development and advancement for those qualified. We must provide competent management, and our actions must be just and ethical.

We are responsible to Saskatoon. We take seriously the responsibility that we have been given to support those that are struggling, marginalized, and need help in our community. We must be good neighbours, striving to help businesses in the downtown have a pleasant and profitable work environment. We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.

Our final responsibility is to our donors and funders. They are entrusting us with their resources and have a right to see a return on that investment with helped people and changed lives. We will experiment with new ideas. Study what we have done and learn from our mistakes. From our research, innovative programs will be developed and the results will be shared. Reserves must be created to provide for adverse times.

When we operate according to these principles, we will make our community a better place to live in.