Tag Archives: Salvation Army Community Services

What’s next is next

When I resigned from the Salvation Army, I didn’t really have a plan or a job to go to so I’ll let you read into that all you want.  It was a pretty sudden decision but it was time to move to something else.  After years of being on call 24.7, I wasn’t sleeping well and it had started to take a toll on my body.  Stress was a major contributor to my heart “event” and part of the tension I had in my shoulders which is what partially lead to my rotator cuff issues (it’s healed now).  I have lost 30 pounds since I was hospitalized but as my doctor said, the stress still needed to be dealt with.  As he said, “my body was demanding a change of pace”.

When I resigned, I immediately updated my LinkedIn profile and sent out some resumes that day as to be honest, the idea of being unemployed doesn’t appeal to me.  I heard from a couple of headhunting recruitment firms that had some clients they were working with but I didn’t know what to think about those job descriptions.  I have had a job that I cared passionately about for so long that the idea of collecting a pay check for the purpose of collecting a pay check kind of freaked me out.  Well that might be too strong, if I got the kind of compensation package Urban Meyer got to coach OSU, I might sell out as well.  Especially if Notre Dame offers me their head coaching job. 

We did get some offers overseas that kind of came out of the blue.  The idea of living and working in England and Europe excited me, it would have been taking the job for the experience, it wasn’t anything that evoked any great passion out of me.  With the looming recession in Europe, I envisioned being made redundant (laid off) in 6 months anyways.  It may have been different if I was single or Wendy and I didn’t have any kids but it’s a big deal to move there just because I want to experience a part of Europe.  While the romantic in me loves the ideas of weekends in Paris or Berlin, the practical part of me says that at my payscale, it wasn’t likely to happen.  Because I always prided myself in thinking globally, I have wanted to live globally.  At the same time I do love this city of ours and I like to call Saskatoon (and Arlington Beach on summer weekends) home.

I then had to figure out what I wanted to do.  I know what I need to do to live on and Wendy and I don’t have much debt (mortgage, small car payment).  While Wendy wants to do a bunch of work to the cabin, the bill for that will be in the hundreds of dollars this summer, not thousands.  On top of that, Wendy cut back on a lot of her job responsibilities at Safeway this year.  She wasn’t getting paid for them and it was taking away from she liked about her job.  On top of that Oliver is at an age where being at the sitter a bit isn’t that bad for him and he really enjoys being there which has meant that Wendy can get much earlier shifts.  Both of these factors contributed to Wendy enjoying work a lot more and as she says, she enjoys work more now than she has at any time over the last 15 years.  While her depression is always there, things are better and it gave me some flexibility on what i wanted to do with my life.

So what do I want to do?  Initially I was so tired that I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I still wasn’t sleeping right but over the last week I have just relaxed and felt more alive physically, emotionally, and spiritually than I have in a long time.  I did realize that I still want to do something that I care about and I want it to be local.  I also realized there are relatively few things that get me excited.  I get friends who are working in churches and want to talk about ancient/future worship or some great new idea in technology and communication and I can barely generate an opinion.  It’s not that for some that stuff isn’t important but for me, it’s not how I am wired.  On the other hand I am not driven by money.  I wish I was sometimes and I have been derided for my lack of greed but I am driven by helping people.  It left me in a place where I want to spend more time on stuff I care about and less time on stuff that is important to other people.

So what does it all mean.  It means that on Thursday I’ll post where I landed and some other projects that I am working on.

Christmas Gift Guide: For Your Husband/Boyfriend/Men in Your Life | 2011 Edition

It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and this year I get to kick off the festivities as mine will go first.  How cool is that?  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.

Leatherman New Wave Multitool | Last year Lee went out and bought Jordon a nice multi-tool and he has used it every day since then.  It’s amazing how many times it has come in handy around the house or when we have been out driving or at the lake.  It’s been used to fix the car, perform first aid, cut down a tree, screw in more than one screw, and open many a package.  You really don’t realize how handy and indispensible they are until you don’t have one around.  We have picked up some less inexpensive ones over the years and we keep one in both of our car safety kits and also up at the cabin.  If the guy you are shopping for doesn’t have one, get him one.
($62 at Amazon.com)

iPod Touch | If the guy you are shopping for has an iPhone then don’t bother but if he has an Android or Blackberry powered phone, don’t buy into the hype that they can listen to music with it.  They can but you can’t use iTunes and it’s a big time drain on the battery.  Get them a 4th generation iPod Touch and let them put their videos and music on it.  For Jordon, his iPod has many of the same apps that his phone does, it means that he can grab it any time he needs it, even if his phone is out of reach or charging.  Plus no matter how easy people tell you it is to get music on your Android or Blackberry, iTunes makes it easier.  While it won’t replace your HD camcorder, there was been a lot of times when we have it with us and it takes excellent HD video.  Photos are generally grainy but the video is good to excellent.
(32gb for $279 at Amazon.com)

Seinheisser CX 500-B headphones | Whatever you do, upgrade his headphones. The Apple headphones may be iconic but they aren’t very comfortable. Instead try the CX 500’s which are high quality, noise-isolating ear-canal phones with a crisp, clear, bass driven stereo sound. They feature a volume control integrated in the cable and come with a new, unique type of ear adapter for an improved fit and an even better passive noise attenuation.
($30 at Amazon.com)

Kindle Fire/Kobo Vox | If a iPad is out of your price range and you don’t want a Blackberry Playbook (not many of us do), why not look at an Android powered Kindle Fire or if you are in Canada, check out the Kobo Vox.  They aren’t iPads but they are not $500 either.  They allow you to install apps, read books, watch some video, install apps surf the web, play Angry Birds, tweet, and check email easily.

Which one should get?  Amazon has a faster tablet while the Kobo Vox is available in Canada.  There have been some pretty annoying issues with the Kobo Vox as Kobo has a reputation of shipping before it it is ready.  They have however released five firmware updates which means that the Vox is getting better with each release.
(Both are $200 at Amazon.com or Chapters)

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson | Read the summary and tell me that the tech geek in your life won’t want to read this.  Plus, after he is done with it, you can read it.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

($18 at Amazon.com)

The Wire | Season 1 ($21)| Season 2 ($21.49) | Season 3 ($21.49) |Season 4 ($21.49) | Season 5 ($21.49) | Complete Series ($149) | If you haven’t seen The Wire, you are missing out on one of the best shows ever made for television.  It’s more than the acting and the writing, it’s the concept of dedicating an entire season to one story and crime and letting it unfold.  I have watched the entire series twice with Jordon and it gets better wit age.  I really is worth watching and owning.  It would be a fantastic gift to any man on your Christmas gift.
(All seasons available at Amazon.com by clicking on the season link)

Ken Burns: Prohibition |  Well let’s see you have Ken Burns telling the story of prohibition so you have gangsters, smugglers, corrupt cops, good cops, and a government that was comfortable actually poisoning alcohol to keep it from being consumed.  Yeah, this is going to be a good documentary series.
($19 at Amazon.com)

Mad Men | Jordon got into Mad Men last Christmas and while advertising isn’t my passion, I have come to really enjoy the series.  It’s also reassuring that someone, somewhere is making television worth watching again.
(Season 1 is $10.49 at Amazon.com. Seasons 2, 3, & 4)

Tivoli Model One | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.
(Tivoli Model One is $149 at Amazon.com | Seagean WR-11 is $80 at Amazon.com)

Wooden Pocket Knife | Jordon’s grandfather carried a wooden pocket knife with him his entire life.  Today while in Eddie Bauer he was surprised to see a great looking wooden pocket knife for sale.  Eleven functions in one beautifully crafted tool: scissors, fish scaler, hook remover, reamer with sewing eye, can opener, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener, flathead screwdriver, small blade, and large blade.
($15 at Eddie Bauer)

MI5 | I fell in love with this long running BBC series along with Jordon.  This is adult, post-watershed drama clearly inspired by the hard-hitting style of shows as 24 and The Sopranos.  I have never seen a show so willing to kill off major characters but the one that remains (Harry) pulls show all together.  It’s a lot of fun, action packed and even controversial.
(Season 1 is $22 at Amazon.com  Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9)

Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew | I bought this book for Jordon tis summer and he really enjoyed it.  It’s not a light read as it is a scholarly history of MI5 but it is readable and incredibly interesting.  I found myself fascinated by some of the stories he would read from it as well as the personalities of the people behind the vaunted intelligence agency.  If you loved one is a fan of history, you can’t go wrong with this book.
($18.15 from Amazon.com)

Fuji Finepix XP20 | Jordon bought this camera this summer and loves it.  It’s waterproof and ruggedized design means that it goes everywhere with him, including the sometimes clear/sometimes murky waters of Last Mountain Lake.  It features 14 megapixels resolution with an impressive 5x wide zoom with dual image stabilization to shoot sharp image quality in any condition. The 2.7 inch LCD is clear and easy to see even in bright conditions and the bright LED lights the way in the dark. Also it is equipped with a strengthened glass lens cover providing outdoor protection. Other features include one touch underwater movie recording, Motion Panorama with automatic stitch, Face Detection, HD Video, and more.
($135 at Amazon.com)

The Power Broker by Robert Caro | Both the postman and myself got hernias when this book was delivered.  It is 1344 pages and a Pulitzer Prize winner about Robert Moses.  Who was Robert Moses?  Well he was the urban designer that changed the face of New York City and much of New England forever.  His car centric urban design probably influenced how we live more than anyone else.  He was feared, hated, and admired all at the same time.  Just as it’s a book about Moses, it’s a biography of New York City.  This book is coming out as a movie (or a long mini-series) next year.  Read the book first.
($16.50 at Amazon.com)

Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power | I haven’t read it yet but Jordon said it was the best book he read in 2010.   The book is about Sergio Vieira de Mello’s who was a Brazilian United Nations diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN.  He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 20 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.  While the book was quite compelling, it has also been made into a HBO movie.
($6.80 at Amazon.com)

Survivorman: The Complete Series | A couple of years ago Jordon was surfing the television and stumbled upon Les Stroud surviving a week in Alaska and all of us got hooked on the show.  We own all three seasons (Season 1, 2, 3) but you can get the entire series in one box from Less Stroud’s online store.  If you are interested in the cultures Stroud interacted with on the show, make sure you check out the complete series of Beyond Survival
($69 from Les Stroud.ca)

Tabletop fountain | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At the Salvation Army Community Services, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.
($37 from Amazon.com)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | I never bought Jordon video games but he has made a sacred vow never to let Mark beat him at a game and so every once in a while Jordon takes a couple of days and beats a game.  This year he beat Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Battlefield: Bad Company, and Call of Duty: World at War and InFamous for the Playstation 3.  While he talks of the sacred vow, deep down he does it to escape and unwind.  If Jordon was creating this list, he would add Infamous 2 and Battlefield 3 to the list.  Depending on how old the game is, you can get them for a really good deal.
(Call of Duty is $59 at Amazon.com)

Kodak Zx5 Playsport | Jordon is a big fan of is Kodak Zi8 camera but Kodak isn’t making them any longer and has instead brought out the Zx5 Playsport.  It’s ruggedized, water proof (even has underwater white balance and shoots stunning video).  While we have a camcorder, you would be amazed at the amount of time we shot great video with our Kodak because we had it with us.
($109 at Amazon.com)

Creative Vado | The third generation of the Creative Vado may not be ruggedized but does have an external microphone port which means that with a lavalier or a shotgun microphone, you are going to get much better audio than you would with most standard camcorders.  Not only is the price right but along with Kodak Playsport, it offers up a wide variety of video options as well.
($79 at Amazon.com)

Note: If you are looking for some inexpensive video editing software, check out this list from PC World.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.


Today was my last day at The Salvation Army Community Services.  It was a good run but like all things come to an end.  I am still going to be involved in homeless issues here or where ever we end up and I am still writing about urban issues in The StarPhoenix.  I am not sure what I am going to do with my life now.  I spent 11 years as a pastor in Spiritwood (while working at Lakeview Church during some of the same years) and I have worked for The Salvation Army for the last six years so unemployment is a rare occurrence for me.  I think I have been unemployed for a week in my entire life. 

I am not sure what I am going to do now and am open to suggestions.  If you are wondering what I am good at, I updated my LinkedIn profile (I think I finally figured out what LinkedIn is for) but you can always email me at jordoncooper@gmail.com.  Walking out of a job without a plan is crazy course of action but I am really looking forward to what is ahead and where ever it takes me.

My vote | 2011

After posting what I believed to be a fair and balanced explanation of who I was voting for last year, I learned that there was no way you could announce and explain how you vote without alienating those on the other side.  Voting always has been and probably always will be (for those of us who actually vote) a personal thing that upsets those that see the world differently.   So a wise person would keep it quiet but I am going to keep up the practice of explaining who I am voting for and why.  As always, the comments are open for a rebuttal or even a good rebuke.

As most of you know, I grew up Progressive Conservative.  My first campaign I helped out on way Hon. Ray Meiklejohn’s 1986 campaign for what was then called Saskatoon Mayfair (old massive riding that was Saskatoon Northwest, Meewasin, and part of Saskatoon Massey Place).  I was twelve.  I later ran in Saskatoon Riversdale in 1995 where I narrowly (by 3000 or so votes) lost to Roy Romanow.  If he wasn’t Premier, beloved in the riding, accomplished, a better politician, well financed and far more popular than I was, I would have taken him.

In 2003 I was planning to throw my vote away and vote Saskatchewan Party (they have never run hard in the riding) when Hon. Eric Cline came to my door late one evening while campaigning.  I was his last house to door knock on and he was ahead of schedule so when I asked him some questions, he got all animated and passionate at the door and we had a good discussion about provincial policy, politics, and even some NDP politics.  It was a good enough discussion that I decided to vote NDP for the first time in my life (although I did have second thoughts while heading into the voting booth)

In 2006 or 2007, I think Linsay Martens emailed or Facebooked about Cam Broten’s campaign and asked me to check out his website and consider supporting him.  I checked out the website and I knew Cam would win but I was busy helping out with Ken Cheveldayoff’s campaign.  I don’t think I met Cam that campaign but while helping to elect a Saskatchewan Party candidate, we did vote for Cam in Saskatoon Massey Place as I thought Cam would be a good MLA and I have always been a firm believer in the need for a strong opposition.

Cam won by around 60% of the vote and I ran into him at the Community Christmas dinner for the Salvation Army and we had a good chat.  I think Cam was the first Saskatchewan politician to embrace Twitter (@cambroten) and we connected online.  Over the last couple of years I have found him easy to work with, tremendously helpful when I needed some help or a question answered and often would refer me to another MLA when I was ranting about something or had a question on Twitter.  To be honest he kind of raised my expectations for how approachable a MLA could and should be.

In the Legislature, he went toe to toe with Hon. Rob Norris and held the government accountable for a debacle over the Carlton Trail college mergers.  He didn’t score any cheap political points during those debates and I felt brought some restraint to a debate that could have gone ridiculously partisan.  While Cam is obviously partisan as a NDP MLA, we can talk about issues we disagree on.  This is a quality that not all elected officials have.

Voting NDP is not first nature for me.  I tried to like rent control and look how that turned out.  I can’t agree with a potash royalty rate review because I hate the idea of a government reneging on it’s word (a NDP government at that) with a royalty rate that was just signed.  I really like the Bright Future’s Fund but that idea was lifted from the Saskatchewan Liberals.  On top of that, I really like the Saskatchewan Party’s SAID program and I think overall, the Wall government deserves another four years.

Re-Elect Cam BrotenDespite the fact that the NDP seem to be struggling in the polls, I am going to vote for Cam Broten.  I still believe MLAs matter and Cam does an excellent job.  An effective government needs and effective opposition and Cam has shown that he can help hold them accountable in the Legislature, the media, and online.  As a resident of the riding, the issues I have, he experiences as well.  In addition to living in the riding, he is a tireless campaigner; talking to neighbours and constituents online, on the doorstep, and through his involvement in community events.  There were many days over the last four years in the freezing cold or blazing heat that his Twitter feed said, “knocking doors in ___________”. 

His first four years were excellent and he deserves another four.  The voters in Planet S magazine agree with me (they named him the best MLA two years in a row).  I have high expectations for my elected officials.  Not many have met them over the years but Cam has exceeded them.

Column: Prostitution a complex issue

This week’s column for The StarPhoenix.

logo_saskatoonstarphoenix At work we deal with a database that has been developed by the federal government to help shelters such as ours to keep accurate statistics.

Like anything designed by bureaucrats, it’s unwieldy, crashes a lot and doesn’t really do anything that’s very useful. It publishes inaccurate reports that need to be manually checked, thus eliminating the efficiency that should come from its use.

Despite my dislike of the software, I realized that it could be useful in helping us understand and track the contributing factors to homelessness. To implement these ideas, I needed input from others on what we wanted to track and the best ways to do that.

During this discussion on contributing factors, the issue of sex trade workers arose. Staff pulled 20 random files of self-identified sex trade workers. A glance at the files showed 19 of the 20 had mental health problems. All 20 spoke of substance abuse issues. Many spoke of significant ongoing health issues such as HIV/hepatitis C or recent miscarriages.

Within hours of coming off the street and getting some food and sleep, the women were back on the street, looking for their next fix or hooking up with their pimp before they were missed. I see in the women who come in for meals the toll the sex trade takes on them.

One woman who has been coming in for years has started to lose a lot of weight, around 60 pounds on a frame that to begin with didn’t have any to lose. She is skin and bones, except for the parts of her body where she’s injecting the drugs.

When she comes in for meals, her limbs are often flailing uncontrollably. She seems to struggle with her body control as she gets some food before heading back out to work at a nearby restaurant parking lot.

The other day I watched her for more than an hour as she tried to score drugs, sex and even coffee in a parking lot.

Panhandling, prostituting and drug dealing – she’s doing whatever it takes to get through the day and the next bit of drugs. Eventually it is off to the Salvation Army or the Friendship Inn for a meal, and then it’s back to what she needs to do to survive.

How does one get to this point?

Last year, I sat in on the Salvation Army’s john school. It’s an alternative sentencing program for men who have been charged with soliciting. Staff occasionally sit in to better understand what life is like for the women on the streets and one of the first things I learned was that they weren’t women but girls when they started.

Many lost their virginity to johns when they were as young as age 11. I had a conversation with a researcher last week who spoke of a parent saying, "I put my girls on the streets because that is what my parents did to me."

An April 2002 StarPhoenix front page story spoke of girls recruiting girls into the sex trade, with pimps as young as 12.

I keep hoping we’ve made progress, but a recent conversation with City Centre Church’s Chris Randall confirmed that it’s still happening; they are seeing preteen girls come in from the streets.

Last year I gave countless tours to Catholic school division elementary school teachers and heard the same stories from them: Parents who don’t care, siblings using younger children to advance their own standing in gangs, or families living off the money their daughters bring home.

If that is how it starts for a street worker, how does it stop? This question has haunted me over the past few weeks.

Any extra money will go to drugs. Food will go to her pimp. If she is charged and incarcerated, what’s even 90 days in a provincial jail going to do? It’s not enough time to get the mental health care she needs or time enough to deal with the addictions. When she is back out, where does she turn?

Statistically, the chances are it will stop with her death. If it’s not the drugs that kill her, it will be a trick gone bad, a sexually transmitted infection or a beating from her pimp that goes too far. These women are treated as disposable human beings and, when their lives end, it is often attributed to "a high-risk lifestyle."

The truth is a lot sadder and complicated, but that is of little comfort to those trapped in it.


© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

My new job

Statue of Ronald ReaganFor those of you who haven’t heard, I am quitting my job at the Salvation Army Community Services, quitting my column at The StarPhoenix and pursuing something really important in life*.  My divine calling is not to help the homeless and the oppressed or talk about urban and geo-political and economic issues in The StarPhoenix; it is this.  My new goal in life is to put a statue of Ronald Reagan in every county in the United States and establish February 6th as Ronald Reagan Day which will hopefully become a national holiday.  Once I am done that, my goal is to move north of Canada and have a statue of Saskatchewan MP Len Blork put in every riding in Western Canada.  The question is where do I put the statue in Saskatoon.  Beside Ghandi or Gordie Howe?


* I’m joking.

Why I do what I do

A couple of months ago I put this together from many, many sources (manuals, binders, and internal documents) for the staff I supervise.  It’s a manifesto of hope and it kind of explains why we do what we do at the Salvation Army in Saskatoon.  We have a lot of stuff that says what to do but I wanted something that says, why we do it.  I didn’t know how it would go over when I put it together but staff here and at Mumford House keep asking me for copies.  Every once in while when I find myself browsing jobs on SaskJobs and am stressed out, it’s good for me to read it as well.  If you have any thoughts, leave them in the comments.


General William Booth of the Salvation ArmyWilliam Booth believed in the idea of Soup, Soap and Salvation. This came from his belief that the teaching and example of Jesus, together with the repeated testimony of the Bible, reveal that God places a very high value on those who are poor, rejected and marginalized as they have also been made in His image, and are precious to Him. We are convinced of the fundamental dignity and worth of each and every human being, without qualification.

Drastically different life circumstances can create the illusion that we are somehow different people, especially when those external differences are ones that may frighten us – such as homelessness, mental illness, or substance abuse. These perceived differences allow us to distance ourselves, until we can easily justify us looking the other way from people who are homeless or on the street. Yet the closer we get to people, even those whose experiences and circumstances seem foreign to us, the more similar we find ourselves to be. People who are homeless have the same needs and longings we all share, one of the largest things we share in common is a need for community.

In many ways it is this belief that drove William Booth (and later The Salvation Army) for his entire existence. As General William Booth preached during his last sermon at Royal Albert Hall on May 9, 1912

General William Booth of the Salvation ArmyWhile women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight;
While little children go hungry, I’ll fight;
While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, I’ll fight;
While there is a drunkard left, 
       while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, 
       where there remains one dark soul without the light of God – I’ll fight!
I’ll fight to the very end!

Following in William Booth’s footsteps, we offer food, shelter, and a place to call home here at the Salvation Army. A safe place where people can find the necessities of life as well as a place to call home, even if for a short while.

There is a big difference between shelter and home. A home is more than just four walls and a roof. It mean’s being welcomed into a safe, secure and dignified place to live; healthy, nurturing relationships; respectful of boundaries; the opportunity for education; a place to worship, and a place where it is safe to dream and play in vibrant community.

It’s easy to provide shelter.  Anyone can put up a tent or a shed. It’s far more difficult to provide a place to call home. We take the more difficult path of providing a home for our clients because we are driven by love and compassion. Compassion is more than a feeling.  Genuinely caring about people motivates us to take action. It pushes us to learn why people become homeless or are trapped in poverty, it makes us engage in social advocacy. It drives us to make a point of getting to know people who may live outside our own comfort zones, and seek to share our time, abilities and resources. All of these energies are directed at bringing about positive change – such as helping our residents find a home of their own, meaningful employment, serving a meal cooked with care, or helping them access health care or education.

Choosing to help only those who we feel is deserving of our help and leaving behind those whose behaviors we may disapprove of is prejudicial and not Biblical. The grace that all Christians rely on is for people who are undeserving and/or guilty.  The Salvation Army, knowing ourselves to be by nature undeserving, we ought to be able to identify with those who appear to be homeless or poor because of their own behaviors. In other words, we as staff and officers have messed up too.

The cost of our inaction is often higher than our actions. Abandoning people to poverty increases health problems and necessitates increased Social Services spending.  We also know it sometimes drives people to crime – all major burdens for governments and us as taxpayers.  Being trapped in poverty diminishes hope and the sense of personal value in the individual. Children when they are born into poverty, start life so far behind others that they may never be able to catch up. When people are shut out because of their poverty, poverty itself “snowballs”, increasing our societal burden and diminishing our capacity as a community.  Part of what we strive to do here everyday at the Centre is to stop this snowball effect on and in our clients.

One of the ways we do that is to offer “second chances” to people who have failed or done wrong. We believe that justice ought to be primarily restorative rather than punitive. We do that at the Centre through New Frontiers Half-Way House, John School, and the staff’s willingness to continue to work with even the most difficult of clients. Everything we do, even in handling out disciplinary action is aimed at the restoration of the relationship and community.

From this, we take out the following principles

  1. We are here for our clients. They are our reason for existence as a Residential Services department and as a staff. They are the reason we come to work, they are the reason Social Services decides to fund us and why we get paychecks.
  2. All homeless persons have the right to safe shelter which is a universal human right afforded to all human beings regardless of political or religious beliefs, ethno-cultural background, (dis)ability, gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Staff must respect and be sensitive to the diversity of residents. Discriminatory and racist incidents or behaviors are not tolerated.
  3. Despite the situations that lead to a client becoming homeless, the staff must do everything they can to ensure that we find safe, secure, and affordable housing for our clients, whether it be in our residential programs, Larson House, the Lighthouse, another one of Saskatoon’s shelters or even the Saskatoon Police Service.
  4. The Centre will provide an atmosphere of dignity and respect for all shelter residents, and provide services in a non-judgmental manner.
  5. Residents are capable of moving toward increasing levels of self-reliance and self-determination. Shelter staff will work with residents to assist them in achieving their goals.
  6. The Salvation Army Community Services is sensitive to the ethno-specific and linguistic needs of residents. Staff will work to ensure residents have access to culturally appropriate interpreter services if needed.
  7. Gender identity is self-defined. Sometimes this may not correspond with a person’s physical appearance. We accept gender identity as defined by the individual rather than by the perception of staff and/or other residents. If the gender identification is not compatible with our current capacity to house them, staff will work with Emergency After Hours find more appropriate housing (i.e. hotels or other shelters).
  8. Front Desk Staff often have access to detailed and highly sensitive personal information about residents. Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of shelter residents and their personal information is of the utmost importance.
  9. All people who need it will have access to safe and nutritious food. All of the staff has a role in this, whether it be signing people up for twelve free meals, issuing of free meal tickets, accurate referrals to the Saskatoon Food Bank or The Friendship Inn, referrals to coffee houses, helping out with dining room security, or assisting in the kitchen, we do what we have to do to make sure people have access to good food.
  10. The health and safety of residents, volunteers and staff is of the highest importance to The Salvation Army Community Services. Training, policies, procedures and regular maintenance are intended to encourage, improve and maintain the health and safety of all people residing, volunteering and working in the shelter.
  11. People who are homeless have few resources and the shelter system is often their final option to receive the basic necessities of life: food and shelter. We will only issue service restrictions as a last resort and in the most serious cases. If a client is banned, we will work with other shelters, Emergency After Hours, and Social Services to ensure that he or she is housed.
  12. People who are homeless, like other members of our community, may use substances to varying degrees. Everyone is entitled to shelter whether or not they use substances. Even though we may not house them here, we need to find an appropriate spot for them, whether that be with Larson House, the Lighthouse, or another facility. In extreme cases we call the Saskatoon City Police. For clients who insist on using banned substances, we may ask them to find another residence but this is only done after staff, the Residential Coordinator, and the Centre’s chaplain has talked with them.
  13. We have tough jobs that rely on accurate information being given to us. In turn, we will always give accurate and honest assessments to other agencies. Not only for their benefits but so our clients are placed properly.
  14. Shelters are part of a larger network of homeless services and agencies. Collaboration within this network is important to ensure that our goals and objectives as a Centre are being met.

As individual staff members, it means that there are also certain expectations made of us.

Staff will:

  1. Maintain the best interests of the resident as their primary goal. The best interests of a client may not be what they want but what they need or has been defined as a proper course of action by our policies or the Courts. It’s why we send intoxicated clients to Larson House, it’s why we call in CSC clients who have breached, it’s why we monitor probation clients.
  2. Acknowledge the power inherent in their position and strive to minimize the impact of the power differential.
  3. Be respectful of residents, fellow employees, and any other person with whom they come in contact during the course of their duties.
  4. Carry out professional duties and obligations with integrity, objectivity and equity.
  5. Ensure residents have the necessary information to make informed decisions.
  6. Acknowledge that the work-site is someone else’s home, and be mindful of their presence especially in communal and sleeping areas.
  7. Be accountable for all interactions with residents, community members and staff.
  8. Acknowledge when they are in a situation they are not skilled or comfortable to handle, and seek support from colleagues and supervisors.
  9. Work as a team with other Residential staff and other programs in The Salvation Army. At our peak, over 60 staff members work out of here in a wide variety of jobs and programs. Always be on the lookout for how you can help in another area or help out another staff, regardless of whether or not it is in your job description.
  10. Follow their agency policies and procedures around staff behavior and conduct.
  11. Report all violation of the code of ethics to the Residential Coordinator or if needed, the Executive Director.

Staff will not:

  1. Discriminate against any person on the basis of race, ethnic/cultural background, sexual orientation, age, (dis)ability, religious belief, socio-economic status, etc.
  2. Use abusive, discriminatory language.
  3. Impose their own personal beliefs/standards on residents.
  4. Exploit their relationship with a resident for personal benefit, gain or gratification.
  5. Become involved in a resident’s personal life beyond their professional function.
  6. Have personal relations with current or previous residents as outlined in The Salvation Army’s policies personal conduct policy.
  7. Accept gifts or services from current or previous residents, their family, or friends
  8. Perform duties under the influence of intoxicants or consume intoxicants while on duty.
  9. Violate or disobey established rules, regulations, or lawful orders from a supervisor (or Parole Officer, Officer of the Court, or a Salvation Army officer)
  10. Engage in critical discussion of staff members or residents in the presence of residents.
  11. Withhold information which, in so doing, threatens the security of the Center, its staff, visitors, or the community.
  12. Through negligence, endanger the well-being of self or others.
  13. Engage in any form of business or profitable enterprise with residents.
  14. When dealing with Correctional Services of Canada clients, inquire about, disclose, or discuss details of a resident’s crime with any other clients.

Giving Hope Today is more than a marketing slogan for the Salvation Army in Canada, it is our job description in three words and it has always been a hard task to do.

There is going to be days when as a staff we are given responsibilities that we don’t think are totally suited to our capabilities. That’s fine because throughout history, the world has been made a better place by those that do what they are not suited for.

If we are going change the world around us, there are going to be days when the task ahead is going to be hard and hard and demanding and the clients unappreciative. Theologian Leonard Sweet offers quick look back at the Bible and church history gave some time to reflect on the attitudes of those that have made a difference.

The world’s a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, "I don’t do doors."

The world’s a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn’t say "I don’t do preaching in fields."

The world’s a better place because Moses didn’t say, "I don’t do Pharaohs or mass migrations."

The world’s a better place because Noah didn’t say, "I don’t do arks and animals."

The world’s a better place because David didn’t say, "I don’t do giants."

The world’s a better place because John didn’t say, "I don’t do deserts."

The world’s a better place because Mary didn’t say, "I don’t do virgin births."

The world’s a better place because Paul didn’t say "I don’t do correspondence."

The world’s a better place because Jesus didn’t say "I don’t do crosses."

And the world will be a better place only if you and I don’t Say, "I don’t do …"

As staff, every hour of every day, we are here to serve our clients, do everything we can to ensure that people have a home to go to, and in the spirit of William Booth fight for those who have no one else to fight for them. Plus, there is no job quite like changing the world and making the differences in the lives that we do each and every shift.

The end of the line

I attended a funeral for a long time resident of the Salvation Army Community Services today.  He stayed with us for several years after the death of his wife and the alienation from his children.  During the funeral today, the priest mentioned his time at the Salvation Army several times and each time he would mention it, I found myself thinking of our time together.

At the funeral there were some residents of the nursing home, not all of them were even aware what was going on and who Andy was and there were four of us from the Salvation Army and that was it.  Now he was buried earlier and four other staff and officers attended that service and that’s it, eight of us over two services.  No one else.

It struck me because if you wanted a visualization of the Salvation Army’s vision, that would be part of it.  When there is no one else, we will be there and we were there a lot for Andy.  At the same time Andy just didn’t take from us, he gave back in terms of friendship.

He never talked much and could never remember our names.  He wouldn’t even try.  He never called me Jordon but rather Susan, Joe, Frank, Peggy, or Patty.  Apparently he wasn’t big on gender differentiation either.  He remembered my co-worker Vi’s name and when he was a little ticked at her, he called her Viv.  Not sure why but it made us laugh.  While he never got my name right, we would hug me once a month and tell he that he thought we were going a good job.  Getting hugged freaked me out but I appreciated the sentiment.  He also said it like it was.  One day he came down and said, “Give me a bucket, I just s— myself” and there was a trail coming all the way from his room and down the stairs.  At least he offered to clean up after himself (our janitor took care of it).  Another time a highly intoxicated man had some in and immediately passed out in the lobby, splitting open his head.  He was almost bleeding out and there was paramedics and blood everywhere.  As someone came in and asked what happened, Andy replied, “I told him not to mess with me” and didn’t crack a smile.  Perhaps my favorite thing Andy ever said to me was he walked up to the front desk and simply said, “Damn Blue Jays.  No pitching at all this year” and wondered off.

Andy was fiercely independent but he let the staff close enough to care for him and also for us to see a bit of his life as well.  I’ll really miss him.  As the priest said, Andy had a hard life but there was some good times as well.  I’m glad I was there to see some of them.  I am not sure what all of the ups and downs of his life were but I am quite sure the time spent with us was good for him.

During the service I kept thinking that Andy brought out the best in all of us.  I can’t think of Andy without hearing my co-workers joking with him, fussing a little bit over him, or just chatting with him.   It’s rumored that I may have shed a tear in the service thinking about all of it.

Of course since I have been rather sappy, I’ll spoil all of it for you with this story.  One really funny part of the funeral was when the chaplain at the Sherbrooke Community Centre acknowledged that there was people there from the Salvation Army and a women said, “I’ve already given them money, I’m out of here” and stormed out of the funeral.  One more really funny memory to cap of his life.

Projects: About.Me

A lot of you know that I am a big fan of About.MeWendy, Mark, and even Oliver has a profile on it and every night I need to show Oliver his site after he asks for “Oli-er’s web page”.  Each page took under 5 minutes to create and I was suprised to find how useful mine has become, even after having jordoncooper.com online for over a decade now.

One of the things I have learned about homelessness is how disconnected our residents become from the rest of the world.  Some of the staff who are reading this have worked Christmases at the Centre and at Mumford House and know how few phone calls come in for the guys who call this place home during the holidays.  It puts a damper on a normally joyous day for a lot of them.

When I saw About.me, I realized this was a perfect for the clients to reconnect and be found.  To make it happen, I needed a couple of things. 

  1. Webcam shot of Jordon Cooper at work A computer: Nathan, our IT guru got me a couple of Pentium 4’s running Windows XP.  Not exactly cutting edge but cheap and they work well.  My boss Captain Rhonda and the other managers authorized me spending some money on new monitors.  We put the larger 19 inch monitors on some desktops and took their 17 inch monitors for the workstation.  Some keyboards, new mice and I was almost set.  Toss in a USB stick, a $10 webcam that takes photos and 640×480 video for Skype, a microphone, and some speakers and we are good to go.
  2. XS Cargo has $20 computer carts with wheels.  Since we don’t have the space for a permanent computer lab, portability is the key.  Now the cart took me 3 long hours to assemble so there was some labour costs but I finally got it set up.
  3. Software: Ninite.com provided everything I needed.  Firefox, Chrome, AVG, Open Office, Gimp, and Picassa.  I know there are some commercial programs that would be useful but for the most part, this works for us.
  4. A camera.  XS Cargo has some 10 megapixels point and shoots for sale we use for intake.  We will use it for a while but I want to find something cheaper and simpler like this Vivitar.  In addition to taking some photos for profile photos for About.me, I’ll use it to teach some digital photography.

So what does it accomplish?  Well for guys who are looking for work, the workstation will provide them a chance to create or redo a professional looking resume for submission online or in print.  It also also allows them to link to a space online, whether that be LinkedIn, About.me or another site so that employers can find and contact them.  It also gives them some control over their Google rankings.  For guys in the half-way house, a Google search for them may be damaging (and ignore the reality of rehabilitation), for others, they may never have been online at all and this lets them create and tell their story.

For others it allows people to find them.  The front desk at the Centre gets a lot of phone calls from RCMP and police departments across the country looking for guys.  A lot of them are here, they aren’t missing in the traditional sense but the family has lost contact.  A couple of weekends ago I was asking guys what they wanted to see here and a couple of them said, “Skype”.  Well Skype it is.

I need a couple of things.  I am going to see if I can find some headset/microphones for guys talking online and I probably should put some games on the computer.  I’ll check out the freeware game sites.  I also need to create a start page with links to Gmail, Hotmail, The StarPhoenix, Kijiji, and SaskJobs but I’ll do that this weekend.

I have never been a big believer of those that say that technology is the answer as often times it is a scapegoat for not taking personal action, in this case technology isn’t the answer but is a conduit for men and women who are ready to start connecting to their community and family again.  I’m excited by the workstations and tools like About.me.

Tamara’s House to Close

This is horrible news

The board of directors for Tamara’s House made the decision this week to shut down the organization after two formal assessments found it had significant funding deficits, said board member Cheryl Carver. The closure date is tentatively set for April 30.

"(The decision) is one we haven’t taken lightly," said Carver.

Tamara’s House was founded in 1991. Its facility has an eight-bed residence facility and also provides programming and education for victims of abuse and their families.

According to its 2010 annual report, Tamara’s House had 1,105 visits to its group programs in 2009 and 230 calls to its phone support line.

"We have lost significant funding over the last year and a half," said Carver, citing government programs that have dried up.

For those of you who are not aware, Tamara’s House is a shelter for women who have been abused horribly and struggle coping in other homes and in the public.  These are the kind of people that a society and government should be fully funding, not cutting their funding.  I know fundraising is always a part of what NGO’s do but to ask the Board of Tamara’s House to fundraise so they can break even while providing an essential service for the government of Saskatchewan is wrong. Not only do these women deserve a place to find healing and help, shutting it down will put a bigger burden on other facilities who do not have the expertise in helping these women.

It also makes it a lot harder for Mobile Crisis and Emergency After Hours.  The loss of eight rooms and their beds means the difference between women in a supportive environment and women on the streets during conferences or major events in the city.   I am really disappointed with the loss of these beds and especially what it will do for the women that need them.  Hopefully it is a situation where common sense will prevail and the government departments that need to fund Tamara’s House will get the political correction an guidance they need.  If it is allowed to close, the Sask Party will owe someone an explanation as to why.

The bumpy road to the future goes through Saskatoon

Barack Obama is said to be thinking about tapping the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  For those of you who have have never heard of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, here is Wikipedia

Strategic Petroleum ReserveThe US SPR is the largest emergency supply in the world with the current capacity to hold up to 727 million barrels (115,600,000 m3). The second largest emergency supply of oil is Japan’s with a 2010 reported capacity of 583 million barrels (92,700,000 m3). Also, China has begun construction and planning for an expansion of a SPR that will place their SPR at 685,000,000 barrels (108,900,000 m3) by 2020, surpassing Japan.

The United States started the petroleum reserve in 1975 after oil supplies were cut off during the 1973-74 oil embargo, to mitigate future temporary supply disruptions. According to the World Factbook, the United States imports a net 12 million barrels (1,900,000 m3) of oil a day (MMbd), so the SPR holds about a 58-day supply. However, the maximum total withdrawal capability from the SPR is only 4.4 million barrels (700,000 m3) per day, making it a 160 + day supply.

Back to Obama

Administration officials have sent mixed signals in the last several days about the possibility of opening the reserve, which is a rare step. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said on Friday that the administration was monitoring prices, but he seemed reluctant. “We don’t want to be totally reactive so that when the price goes up everybody panics and when it goes back down everybody goes back to sleep,” he said. A few days earlier, Mr. Chu said that the administration was watching closely, but expected oil production that had been lost in Libya because of unrest there would be made up by production elsewhere.

Not question Energy Secretary Chu but who is going to pick up the slack?  OPEC is planning on raising their output by one million barrels a day but that has as much to do with Saudi oilfields coming back online after maintenance than it does about an ability to raise production.  According to Wikileaks and other sources, Saudi Arabia can’t and neither can anyone else.  As Jeff Rubin blogs, only a recession is going to stand in the way of $200/barrel oil and as we found out last time, when oil gets to be higher than $100/barrel, the price is more than global markets can afford and oil dependent economies enter into a recession.  Previous record high prices of $147 per barrel prices brought global economic growth to a halt.  According to Rubin, gas is about to hit six pounds a gallon (£1.32 pounds/liter) and the British government is already considering rationing systems which could be needed by 2020.

This isn’t about rising prices rising because of Libya or Egypt.  If it was that simple, releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would make sense, just as it did after Hurricane Katrina.  The problem is that oil prices were higher than $100 per barrel before the protests started in Egypt.  Global demand was already in excess of a record 87 million barrels per day. It was yet not about potential supply problems from Libya or anywhere else in the Middle East, it is just that the world is running low on oil and we haven’t been able to find the oil stocks to meet demand.

If the President of the United States admitting that the world is running low on oil in a press conference, this would cause a lot of damage to consumer confidence, create even higher price spikes and inspire Tea Party supporters to chant “Drill, Baby Drill” at Sarah Palin campaign stops, and perhaps start the painful transition to the future.  Or you can just pretend it’s a temporary problem and tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  Leadership and getting re-elected are often two qualities that are often in tension with each other.

Closer to home energy independence isn’t an issue, Canada is an oil exporter but we do sell our oil on the open market which means as oil goes to $200/barrel on the open market, we pay $200/barrel oil.  A couple of years ago when we bought the cabin, it was almost $70 to fill the tank on the Honda Accord which had an impact on how we shopped, vacationed, and lived.  It was part of the reason why I drive a 1993 Ford Festiva today.   At one time you have a mini-van or a SUV for long trips, the time might be coming that we have smart car’s for the same reason.

As a province, $200/barrel does wonders for the balance sheet of the Saskatchewan budget.  It makes any finance minister look like a genius.  Look at what Alberta oil revenues did for Stockwell Day (before he put on a wet suit).  It also will generate higher food prices as more and more of the continent’s arable land is converted from wheat and corn we eat and is earmarked for ethanol production.  That’s great if you are an oilman or if you are a grain farmer.  Well actually since 99% of Alberta’s oil reserves are in the oil sands, it’s only great if you are a huge multinational oilman in Fort McMurray.

It’s not so great if you are a consumer, someone in England looking at $2.09/litre for gas or someone that is looking at another summer of skyrocketing food prices here in Canada.  With elections on the horizon in Ontario, Saskatchewan and perhaps across the country, you don’t hear a lot about energy and food prices or creative policy solutions that are going to provide any relief to us in the future with oil or natural gas prices long term.

In fact, Canada doesn’t really have an energy policy at all, unless you consider pump it out as fast as we can as an energy policy and that’s not a sustainable policy.  To break down the problem, I’ll look at it by sector.  Let’s take a look at natural gas first.

According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Canada is the third largest producer of natural gas but ranks only 21st in the amount of proved reserves.  In Alberta, which produces 80% of Canadian gas, the average initial productivity of a gas well has declined by 72% since 1995, meaning we have to drill nearly four wells today to equal one average well in 1995.

As Stats Canada points out, Canada’s between December 2006 and December 2007, gas production is declined 8.7% with the Alberta Energy and Resources Conservation Board feels that we will see a further overall decline in Alberta natural gas production of 35% from 2009 levels by 2019.

Even the industry magazine, Oil Week says Alberta has “squandered” a lot of their natural gas.

It is not commonly known that 80 to 90 per cent of Alberta has had declining natural gas production for a number of years. In the extreme case, northeastern Alberta has seen production drop to 35 per cent of its peak 10 years ago. Even the Alberta Deep Basin, where production grew by over one billion cubic feet (bcf) per day between 2003 and 2007, has struggled to maintain production levels in the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, even the most optimistic predictions of unconventional gas drilling and production cannot mask the terminal decline that is afflicting the Alberta gas industry as a whole.

AJM Petroleum Consultants geologists estimate that raw gas production in Alberta has already dropped from peak by nearly 3 bcf per day, but at 11 bcf per day of sales gas, Alberta is still currently in third place behind Russia and the United States in worldwide daily gas production.
Alberta will not run out of gas anytime soon. But the fact is we have squandered our easily produced, low-cost natural gas resources and have very little to show for it. Without the government ensuring that Alberta is the most attractive place in the world to explore and develop natural gas, the significance of Alberta´s gas industry to the Albertan and North American economy will wane quite rapidly.

Of the major gas producers in the world, only Canada has a lower reserve to production ratio than the US.  In Saskatchewan, SaskEnergy practices a policy of hedging and has done a pretty good job of protecting Saskatchewan consumers from price spikes.  Despite as supplies dwindle the price will keep getting higher and higher.  Because SaskPower uses natural gas for it’s peaking stations, this not only affects us keeping our houses warm in the winter but also just keeping our air conditioning and energy efficient lights on in the summer.

While I enjoy taking a drive out to the Gardiner Dam on a lazy summer afternoon every year, it only generates less than half of what the Queen Elizabeth II peaking station does, which relies on natural gas.  Saskatchewan just opened the Lily Wind Farm near Moosomin which contributes 26.4 MW of energy to our grid and is only one of three wind farms in Saskatchewan (generating about 200 mw) that generates 5% of SaskPower’s needs.  According to SaskPower, they have gotten almost everything they can get from wind general as it can only generate 8% of our province’s electricity needs.  This is a problem because as the province grows, the need keeps increasing and according to SaskPower, they are generating as much power as they can.  Saskatchewan currently consumes 3,600 megawatts on average.  We are going to need to generate another 1,200 to 1,750 megawatts by 2020 because of mixture of growth and the fact that some of our coal fire plants are being decommissioned.

An even more severe problem is our oil supply.  As Ralph Klein loved to point out, Alberta has the second largest supply of oil in the world, right behind Saudi Arabia (or even more than them as you never really can trust their stated oil reserves) with 174 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the oil sands.  Now that part we agree with but comparing it to Saudi light crude oil isn’t a fair comparison.  Oil sands recover is very energy, capital, and time-intensive to produce compared to easier conventional light oil.  As Jeff Rubin wrote in his book, Your World is About to Get Smaller, the fact that we have to go after that hard to get oil proves we are running out of oil.  While the Alberta economy has benefitted from the massive investment of capital and resources to extract oil from the oil sands, there is still not a lot of oil being produced.  Estimates of five million barrels per day by 2025 have been toned down to three and a third, which is still nearly triple current production.  This would take Canada’s total production of oil to 4.1 million barrels of oil a day which would allow us to remain energy sufficient but since oil in Canada is sold at market prices, still pay the same amount as the rest of the world in terms of price and believe me, we will need to purchase a lot of it.

Globally, finding the numbers of how much oil is left is hard to determine.

According to the Oil and Gas Journal (2009), proven reserves of oil worldwide at the end of 2009 amounted to 1,354 billion barrels — a marginally higher volume than estimated a year earlier and the highest level ever attained. Reserves have more than doubled since 1980 and have increased by one-third over the last decade. Half of the increase since 2000 is due to Canadian oil sands reserves; most of the remainder is due to revisions in OPEC countries, particularly in Iran, Venezuela and Qatar. There are continuing question-marks over the estimates for some OPEC countries and their comparability with the figures for other countries. Notwithstanding these uncertainties, OPEC countries account for about 70 per cent of the world total reserves, with Saudi Arabia holding the largest volume.”

At 2009 rates of oil demand (84 mb/d), 1,354 billion barrels is enough for a little over 44 years.

Future World Oil Production

Which means that we will see rising prices from now until the oil runs out… or gets to expensive to go after.  This is what will make it a rough transition for Canadians.

Canadian lifestyle isn’t the most energy efficient.  Canadians are among the highest per capita consumers of energy in the world, exceeding even Americans and most nations that don’t have subsidized energy policies.  We consume about five times the world average and more than 80% of this consumption is fossil fuels.   Why so much?  Part of it is geography based.  It’s cold up here which means that we spend a lot heating our homes in the winter and a lot of energy cooling them down in the summers.  The other geographical feature is we are spread out.  In the last two weeks I did four trips of 827 kms from Saskatoon to Winnipeg and there isn’t a lot between them (no offense to Regina or Brandon).  We have electoral districts the size of some countries that are so vast that candidates need to fly around them to campaign effectively.  With much of our economic power in relatively few cities, we rely on cheap ground or air transportation to move goods throughout the country.  Agriculturally many of our inputs are petroleum based and of course high fuel costs mean higher costs for farmers and producers in terms of machinery and transportation.  With the elimination of the Crow Rate in the 1995, much of Saskatchewan’s train and grain handling infrastructure was eliminated or changed making it even more expensive and fuel intensive to get grain to market and then to bring that grain back to us.  I can give you a hundred other examples but however you look at it, Canada is dependent on cheap energy and we love to exploit it for our own use and to drive our economic growth.

So what happens when oil hits $200/barrel?  While we like to blame the banks for the current economic chaos and they have a lot of explaining to do, it was oil that hit $140/barrel that pushed the world into recession and oil prices are headed on up again.  Even at today’s $118/barrel, that is enough to push us back into a global recession, even if it is not as severe as the previous one.  These recessions may be a way of life.  Oil prices go up, we head into recession which drives demand and oil prices back down.  The cycle continues itself when there is an economic recovery as demand goes up and so does oil prices starting the cycle all over again.

Yet no government at any level seems to have any idea about what to do about this.  Stephane Dion might have been correct with his Green Shift in the long haul but a carbon tax was a hard sell as any tax that encourages changed behaviour is going to be attacked.  We saw this with Jack Layton wanting taxes lifted on home heating fuel.  While we should be encouraging people to shift away from expensive and carbon emitting heating sources, there is a tax on home heating fuel which means that someone is going to rail against it.   Every time gas taxes, opposition parties across the country call for gas taxes to be cut, as if repealing taxes will solve the problem of diminishing oil reserves.

What are the solutions?

For some there is always the assumption that technology will bail us out.  Years ago we heard about Ballard Fuel Cells and how they were going to change anything.  Then they gave up because you can’t make it work at a price point that makes sense.  Then it was electric cars.  In Saskatchewan’s winter, a Chevrolet Volt will only drive about 25 miles before it has to switch to the motor.  There is ethanol which has made a big difference in Brazil with their flex fuels but in North America, the same crops we use for food are being switched to ethanol production.  This lead to some of the large increases in food prices we saw over the last couple of years.  To meet his 2030 targets of 60 billion gallons of ethanol being produced, almost 400% more corn will need to be used which means even more price increases.  For those of you who think that someone should challenge these goals, let me remind that the state of Iowa grows a lot of corn and has this thing called the Iowa caucuses.  Iowa voters love high corn prices and high paying refinery jobs.  My point is that the best technology or common sense doesn’t always win out.

The good news is that north of the border in Saskatchewan, SaskPower seems to be taking some of the steps needed.  Revitalizing and expanding our electrical grids, diversifying into wind, and even offering incentives for people to produce their own power and sell the electricity back to them (an idea that doesn’t make a lot of sense right now because of the time it would take to recover your investment but it’s a step in the right direction).  Saskatoon has made some noise about using the weir to generate a limited about of hydro power as well as building a test wind turbine at the landfill site.  Some municipalities are taking advantage of solar power to keep the lights on in schools and places like Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre.    These make a difference but in the end don’t generate/save enough megawatts to make up for the loss of coal burning plants and increased electrical needs of the province.  While the decision to bring nuclear power to Saskatchewan was controversial and rejected, I can’t help but wonder if 20 years from now when Saskatchewan and much of North America is struggling with an overwhelmed grid, we will regret not forging ahead with clean energy.

With natural gas, SaskEnergy tries to make it as inexpensive as possible to upgrade to a super high efficient furnace.  At the same time I can’t help but get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I hear that an energy company has been acquired whose specialty is extracting hard to get to natural gas deposits.  The viability of these technologies means that we can look forward to more and more price increases in the days ahead.

What do we do about an increase of oil prices.  This is going to impact Saskatchewan in many ways.  Since the elimination of the Crow Rate, Saskatchewan’s rail infrastructure is diminished which is going to cause us grief in the transition into a world of scarcity.  In case you forgot, Warren Buffett just bought Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for $34 billion because he sees the importance of rail travel in moving freight to market at a fraction of cost of ground transportation.  There does seem to be some understanding of this on a federal level.  In Saskatoon we are familiar with the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative as it contributed $20 million to complete Circle Drive  The federal rationale is that these projects will improve access to the Canadian National Railway’s rail yards south of Montgomery in Saskatoon.  The other big project in Saskatchewan is $27 million to the new CPR intermodal facility west
of Regina and upgrading the road connecting highways 1 and 11.  It’s a start in making it easier and cheaper for freight, fuel, and food to move to us and to our export markets.

Locally, it changes the way that tourism happens.  When we go out to the lake, we tend to go out for two three day weekends a month in the summer.  It costs us $30 if I take the Festiva, $70 if we take the van an of course $100 if we are taking about both vehicles.  While we are out there, Wendy will run out of something or make a menu change and Mark and I will drive into Strasbourg for what we need.  Other times we head down to Regina for a Rider game or because I ran out of things to read and we need to visit Chapters.  It often costs us another tank of gas by the time things are all said and done.  That’s fine at $30/tank or $50/tank for the Accord.  It’s not fine when it is $100 tank.  That will change our consumption patterns dramatically.  Instead of 10 quick trips out, we may instead move to three extended trips.  There won’t be any gravel road photography or quick trips into town.

Getting out to enjoy Saskatchewan or see friends may not be as easier or inexpensive as we have grown accustomed to it being.  STC has been an institution in Saskatchewan for decades, even if it isn’t your preferred way to travel.  I’ll be honest, bus travel is not my favourite.  Body odour, drunk passengers, and stopping at every small down between hear and Edmonton has added hours to what should be a pretty quick trip.  Will STC or Greyhound offer a first class bus  between Saskatoon and Regina or between Saskatoon and Calgary that features free wifi, movies, and a steward?  As the economics of travel change, there is going to be new opportunities.  The dream is always going to be high speed rail but as the Acela’s average speed of 120/kph is only slightly higher than that would be of a bus (or my Festiva for that manner) between Saskatoon and Regina.

Oil isn’t just connected to transportation, it’s connected to the food we eat and rising costs of oil lead to higher fuel costs.  Higher costs of fuel mean that input and transportation costs are higher, both from the producer to the mill and from the mill to the store.  Since fuel costs are higher, we have more acreage being dedicated to ethanol production, making food crops even scarcer.  Also you have China buying up vast tracts of land around the world so that their farm workers have jobs and their people have food.  Food grown in Africa and is shipped to China only adds to the world food price pressures and drives up global prices.

Much of what we purchase is not local but is shipped across the country.  The watermelon on the shelf at Safeway or Superstore today was not grown locally, it may not have even been grown on this continent yet at the same we don’t have the infrastructure to eat locally.  While the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market is a great venue and a fun place to spend a Saturday morning, it doesn’t provide the volume, variety or the frequency to make it easy or cost effective to eat local.  Oddly enough Wal-Mart is leading the charge in this area as they foresee a future where fuel costs are going to alter the way we eat.  Who know if Safeway, Supertore, and Sobeys will follow Walmart’s lead or be forced to drastically alter how they get food to our tables.

The Canadian Wheat Board is an export agency but it is going to need to change to allow for more locally grown and produced wheat products or it’s going to have to create a local infrastructure to allow for cheaper food production in local markets.  Years ago some Manitoba farmers wanted to set up a pasta plant and sell it their own wheat.  This is against the law in Canada (which still boggles my mind) as you can only only sell to the Canadian Wheat Board at a price they set so the plant idea died.  In some ways it means that as consumers we are caught in the same cycle with food as we are with eat.  Food shortages in China drive up international prices and we pay more in Saskatchewan for crops that we produce here.

While I don’t think we are going to run out of food, it is going to cost us more and will pay much more for the variety that we want.  This is going to alter the landscape for Saskatoon’s lower class.  The Bridge on 20th does almost 70,000 meals a year, the Salvation Army does 100,000 meals a year, the Saskatoon Food Bank has 15,000 visitors a month or 180,000 a year and while I can’t speak for The Bridge and the Food Bank, the Salvation Army’s increase is partially linked to rising fuel costs.  These are going to be people who are least likely to have a Chevy Volt or a Toyota Prius and don’t have easy access to a neighbourhood grocery store.

The interesting thing is that it may cause a reordering of our civic lives.  High fuel and food prices have hit cities before.  Jeff Rubin looks at Sarajevo during the U.N. sanctions and fighting drove fuel to $6/litre.  To go back even further, England spend years with fuel and food rationing from the start of WWII until 1954.   Even today in some islands in the Caribbean, food and fuel prices are extremely expensive.

What happens?  Cars get parked, bicycles come out an life becomes local again.  Local grocery stores, corner stores, and coffee shops start to become the centre of culture rather than the malls and the big box stores.  Food becomes seasonal again.  We may even start to grow gardens.  The city of Saskatoon is redesigning and rebuilding Mayfair Pool.  Since I moved to Mayfair has been irrelevant because I can go to any pool I want in the city.  Why do I need to go to my local pool when I can drive to Lawson Heights Civic Centre and enjoy the wave pool?  Gas prices or as in England, gas rationing will make us think twice.  In the future local spaces like Mayfair Pool will become important again, as will my local church, my local pub, and my neighbourhood coffee shop, even if it doesn’t sell Starbucks.  The world will get smaller but I don’t know if it is going to be worse.  It’s just going to be different.

The losers in all of this are bedroom communities or exurbs that don’t have a sustainable local economy.  A friend told me that she spends $500/month in gasoline to commute into the city for work.   What happens when that doubles?  You either find work in your community or you do what thousands of others do, you move a lot closer to work.  Some will discover that local economy but other towns will slowly go away.

We are left with two choices as a city.  As Rubin puts it, fundamentally change how we live or get caught in a cycle of recession after recession.  Neither choice is going to be solved by a little more oil being put on the markets by the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Saudi Arabia, or the Alberta Oil Sands.  It’s too big of a problem.

Tomorrow I’ll spend some more time looking at Saskatoon’s future in terms of peak oil.

So far in 2011 – Stats @ Work

For those of you who are interested in this sort of thing, I posted the nightly stats for January – February for the Salvation Army Community Services on their weblog.

Numbers are lower than they were in December but that is a normal decline, partly because of the need to crack down on drugs and alcohol at the shelter that comes with families sending people money over the holidays.  Both use and trafficking sadly go up which means guys get evicted or banned for using, trafficking or the resulting violence from coming in high on drugs.

The other factor is the cold.  Extreme cold tends to cause guys to stay put until it warms up, it tends to focus people on keeping housing, and it tends to delay people coming into town to visit, get treatment, find work, and all of the other stuff that keeps us busy. 

Finally, our caseworker and other residential staff have done an excellent job of keeping guys focused on finding apartments, keep jobs, and work towards their goals.

Supersize Me

A massive hamburger

The kitchen made this burger yesterday.  Every once in a while they get in a food donation that is too small to do much in and needs to used right away or they bring in some stuff from home and see what they can do with it.  This is what gets made.  That’s a normal size plate and that is a loaf of bread (not a bun).  I had them weigh it but it was to heavy for the kitchen scale so it’s weight is unknown but over two pounds.

It was offered to me but in the interest of my heart and stomach, I turned them down.  Maybe for my birthday.  Then again, I want to live to see 38.

My 2011 Life List

instead of a New Years Resolution, here is my list of things I want to get done in 2011.

The personal goals first

  1. Take a photo each day of 2011 and post it to my Project 365 set on Flickr. I’ll also post some to the Project 365 group.  This is designed to force me to carry a camera every day.  I went out and purchased some better camera cases which will make it easier for me to carry a point and shoot camera as well as my Fuji S2000HD along with me.
  2. Get the front deck done at the cabin and build a back patio or replace the gazebo with another one.
  3. Finish up my documentary this year.  I have about 40 interviews but it’s not even close to being done.
  4. Head to Calgary for an extended weekend this summer.  Take the boys to Calaway Park, Heritage Park, Banff via the old highway, Johnston Canyon, the Husky Calgary Tower, Calgary Zoo, have coffee with noted local photographer Dave King, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the gondola, and visit Sawback picnic site (my favourite place on earth).
  5. While at Johnston Canyon, take the hike all of the way to the ink pots (which I have never seen).  Maybe I can get a ride in Oliver’s stroller.
  6. Spend at least one uninterrupted week at the cabin with the family.  All of us.  Including the dogs.  With a visit from Lee in there for a couple of days.
  7. Walk or bike to work 100 days of the year.  I am going to put a 1500 km goal on the bike this year.  We’ll see how I do.
  8. Create some online historical walking tours of Saskatoon’s historic sites.  I have been waiting for the Saskatoon Historical Society to be doing it for ages and it never happens.  Plus the best ones that I have seen are done by individuals and not organizations. 
  9. Put up at least three posts a month at The Hedge Society.
  10. Hike with Mark to Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park.
  11. Learn Adobe Premiere Elements like the back of my hand.  I know there are some seasoned video editors out there who scoff at the term elements but let’s keep in mind that I am a hack, not a professional.
  12. Make Evernote a part of my daily life.

Now my work related goals

  1. That documentary thing is kind of work related.
  2. Finish up a comprehensive manual for front line homeless workers and post it online.
  3. Finish up and launch a website for homeless individuals, front line workers, and the public on housing resources and homeless issues in Saskatoon.
  4. Take John School on the road.  John School is incredibly effective but it’s only for guys who have been picked up for solicitation. By that time a neighbourhood has been affected, marriages have been destroyed, and women have been hurt.  The idea is to get the content and message from John School out there before lives have been ruined. 
  5. Put together a conference on human trafficking in the city during 2011.  I realize that I am a libertarian deep down which makes me quite liberal minded but there are 600 known sex trade workers in Saskatoon and many of them are underage.  No, not all of them are like Julia Roberts or Heidi Fleiss.
  6. This may not happen this year but I would love to start the work on having some policy discussions on poverty and homelessness in Saskatoon with policy makers.  I hate meetings and rallies that don’t take into practical and financial implications for homelessness, poverty, and housing.  I can stand on the rooftops and scream for more money as well as the next one but the reality is that there is always going to be competing political and economic realities.
  7. Move the $10,000 goal that we (hope to) raise online with the iKettle and increase it $25,000 for Christmas 2011.

The goals for the website

  1. Become functionally literate.  The spelling mistakes around here are killing me when I read old posts.  I twice fired the writing staff this fall but unlike Conrad Black, I forgot to change the locks when I let people go and they keep sneaking back in.  Stupid helper monkeys.
  2. Incorporate some more video into the site.  I really enjoyed Warren Kinsella’s W@AL segments and want to do some more fun stuff with video here.
  3. I plan to do some long form writing on some more serious topics.  Writing 10,000 word essays is not my idea of a fun job and as you can see, there isn’t a lot of revenue being generated through advertising these days (apparently I fired my advertising team as well).
  4. I plan a lot more time doing some street level photography.  I have long been a fan of what Jake Dobkin has done with BLUEJAKE and what Sam Javanrouh has done with Top Left Pixel and I would love to do more of that in Saskatoon.  This will be related to #8 of my personal goals.
* for a better life list, check out Maggi Mason’s Life List.