- So yeah, the infection in my leg is taking over my body again. The specialist was hoping we had it killed but it came back in under 48 hours and started to move through my body. Am back on antibiotics but right now my throat, ear, eyes, leg, and many joints hurt. Also the fever is something else. It was a year ago that I dragged myself into St. Paul’s Hospital and the doctor simply said after doing blood work, “this infection is killing you”. A year later, it still seems able to do that. Yes it still sucks.
- Why do dogs sense that you have a fever and decide at that moment above all else, they need to hold you. I love Marley but I am sick, the last thing I want is to wake up to a dog sleeping nose to nose with me and touching me. She has twice tried to cover me up today as well. Also, where is that service when I am cold and she is taking my covers?
- I keep hearing that Bev Dubois is running for mayor. This could be the greatest thing over for the Charlie Clark campaign even if Atch does drop out.
- I watch Ken Burn’s The Roosevelt’s the other day. The entire documentary series may be his best yet. If you haven’t seen it, it is on Netflix.
- I’m missing something but I don’t understand Black Lives Matter protesting and disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade. I am totally okay with protesting but I don’t know what disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade accomplishes when they are clearly not the ones that Black Lives Matter has an issue with. Also, how does a festival that is about inclusiveness has a history of “anti-blackness”. Then they wanted to kick out the Toronto Police floats who BLM sees as racist, even if their new chief is black. At the end of the day, I don’t understand activists.
- Kudos to John Tory, Kathleen Wynne, Naheed Nenshi, Justin Trudeau and all of the other politicians who took stands and participated or lead Pride parades in their cities. You will notice that I left Atch’s name off that list. His refusal to march in the parade like almost every other liberal and conservative politician in Canada boggles my mind.
Well it’s bigger than Saskatoon is but it really comes down to how effective your regional governance system is.
Municipal fragmentation has been criticised for decades. In Cities Without Suburbs, his influential 1993 book, former Albuquerque mayor David Rusk argued that Rust Belt cities in the US failed to succeed in part because they were unable to expand, and found themselves hemmed in by a jigsaw puzzle of independent suburbs.
But with cities having become central to national governance in the 21st century, institutions like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank are weighing in, too. Both recently sounded the alarm about the risks of urban fragmentation on a global level, for the developed and the developing world.
“Often, administrative boundaries between municipalities are based on centuries-old borders that do not correspond to contemporary patterns of human settlement and economic activity,” the OECD observed in a recent report. The thinktank argued that governance structures failed to reflect modern realities of metropolitan life into account.
Behind the report’s dry prose lies a real problem. Fragmentation affects a whole range of things, including the economy. The OECD estimates that for regions of equal population, doubling the number of governments reduces productivity by 6%. It recommends reducing this effect with a regional coordinating body, which can also reduce sprawl, increase public transport satisfaction (by 14 percentage points, apparently) and improve air quality.
The World Bank, meanwhile, is worried about the way rapid growth in developing cities has created fragmentation there, too. Metropolises often sprawl well beyond government boundaries: Jakarta, for example, has spread into three separate provinces. The World Bank calls fragmentation “a significant challenge in the East Asia region”.
In the end, it’s a complicated question and answer
And as the Toronto example shows, amalgamation – bringing fragmented government regions together – comes with downsides of its own. Of course, you can put people in the same governmental box, but that won’t necessarily create common ground – instead, it can create a zero-sum, winner-takes-all dynamic.
People in living in cities and those in their suburbs often have different values, priorities and even a different culture. They can be, as was famously said of English and French Canada, “two solitudes”. Urbanites who support regional governance frequently assume that means more power, money and resources for the central city. But as Rob Ford so richly illustrated, that’s not always the case.
Among those who stand to lose from regional government are minorities. In Ferguson, black residents were already under-represented in government relative to their population. But as a voting block they would find their strength heavily diluted in a merged government: Ferguson is more than two-thirds African-American, while St Louis County plus the city of St Louis together are about 70% white.
Unsurprisingly, central cities tend to prefer regional revenue-sharing without giving up political control. Detroit, despite serious financial problems, has viciously fought sharing control over city assets, even where they serve a broader region. Detroit’s convention centre is a good example of the tensions that can arise: it took years to agree renovations to the building, as despite arguing the suburbs should help pay for the building they partly enjoy, the city did not want to cede any control over it.
The IIHF said Hockey Canada was responsible for the ticket prices that may have led to empty seats at Montrealâ€™s Bell Centre for preliminary games at the world junior hockey championship.
Face-value tickets for games in Montreal started at $71 and ranged to $336 for the New Yearâ€™s Eve game between Canada and the United States, which drew 18,295 fans. Just 14,142 fans were in attendance for Canadaâ€™s opening game against Slovakia on Boxing Day.
The capacity of Bell Centre is 21,273.
Tickets for Canadaâ€™s first three round-robin games (against Slovakia, Germany and Finland) ranged from $66 to $261.
â€œI was really surprised,â€ IIHF president RenÃ© Fasel said at a news conference Sunday. â€œIf you would do this pricing in Europe, you would have nobody in the arena.â€
The average NHL ticket price is in the $65 range. Face-value single-game tickets for the Canadiensâ€™ next home game Jan. 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning range from $27 in the family zone to $275 in the platinum level.
The Canadiens play just above capacity and are second in the league in attendance with an average of 21,286 fans a game.
Fasel wondered if marketing and the economy in Montreal played a role in the world junior attendance problems. He conceded not personally knowing what the ticket value should be, but added, â€œHockey Canada decides the prices of the tickets, not us.â€
$261 to wach Slovakia and Finland play seems a little high for a round robin game. Â In fact that was the best part of the tournament in Saskatoon was that you could afford (and get tickets) to a Slovakia and Switzerland game and not have to pay an arm and a leg (and be in a packed SaskTel Centre full of fans cheering for both teams).
How much of this is applicable in Saskatoon. Â The vision for the future of Toronto Police.
â€œWhat I see is the traditional model, which has outlived its utility and relevance,â€ Mukherjee said of a system that has historically relied on uniformed police officers heavily equipped with hardware, where the bulk of training is in use of force.
â€œThe need out there has changed,â€ he said, adding that 80 per cent of the work police are now called on to do isnâ€™t crime fighting per se. Officers are instead dealing with the safety of young people, domestic violence issues, and people suffering mental health issues.
Mukherjee envisions organizational shifts that could involve hiring youth workers, domestic violence workers and social workers. And that could even include taking guns away from some (or many) police officers.
â€œMy vision of the police organization is it is actually a network of many different services,â€ Mukherjee said. The human rights facilitator is keenly interested in the approach to policing in the United Kingdom, thought to be at the forefront of innovation.
These are not simple changes.
During Thursdayâ€™s interview, Mukherjee noted that two years ago he pushed for zero deaths in police interactions with the mentally ill and was told by top brass it was â€œimpractical.â€ (In a report released last week, retired judge Frank Iacobucci also called for a goal of â€œzero deaths,â€ one of several recommendations Blair said would â€œgather momentumâ€ and not dust.)
This would be a fascinating discussion to have because I see the Saskatoon Police force working in both ways. Â While I am not sure how much value the SWAT assault vehicle they have is, they do have a lot more hardware now than they did before. Â How much does a police force need? Â How much social work should they be doing? Â Interesting questions.
The stunning collapse of Heenan Blaikie LLP, once one of Canadaâ€™s largest and most prestigious law firms, stemmed from a â€œloss of trustâ€ in management over international business activities including dubious forays into Africa, where former partner Jacques Bouchard and former prime minister Jean ChrÃ©tien lobbied governments on behalf of clients, former Heenan partners and associates say.
Founded in Montreal in 1973, Heenan grew from 18 lawyers to more than 500, in offices across Canada and in Paris, where it established a beachhead in 2009. It was considered a rock-solid full-service firm â€” and a favourite of the Canadian establishment â€” until a crisis of confidence caused its foundations to crack. Lawyers began leaving, first in a trickle, then in droves, and the whole enterprise came crashing down this month.
Increasing financial pressures and friction between partners in Montreal and Toronto were key factors behind Heenanâ€™s failure, the biggest ever for a law firm in Canada. â€œMontreal didnâ€™t understand Toronto; Toronto felt the Montreal office was way overpaid and overpraised,â€ said one former partner.
But many also agree that Heenanâ€™s excursions into Africa caused so much tension and tumult that partners began shaking their heads and taking their leave. â€œPeople like me said to themselves, â€˜I want to work at a firm that values the practice of law in Canada, not international dictators,â€™â€ another former Heenan partner told the National Post. â€œItâ€™s not what I signed up for.â€ He quit the firm last year.
There came â€œa point where confidence and faith started to disappear,â€ said Jean-Francois Mercadier, managing partner of the firmâ€™s former group in Paris, Heenan Blaikie AARPI. â€œPartners started to lose any kind of faith in the management of the firm. There was a loss of trust in the partnership, and I think the origin is in the Jacques Bouchard story.â€
Last week, the Premier of Ontarioâ€™s Transit Panel â€” comprising 13 citizens from across the region and the political spectrum â€” unanimously recommended a strategy to fund transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The reportâ€™s title, Making the Move: Choices and Consequences, highlights the urgency of investing in transit expansion today, failing which there will be severe consequences tomorrow.
Road congestion and transit crowding in the GTHA have already reached a tipping point. With 2.5 million people and one million more cars expected to come into the GTHA in the next 18 years, the existing severe state of congestion will become intolerable.
We have come up with a revenue plan that works. Our recommendations call for a fair and balanced contribution from all stakeholders, without asking too much of any one group. Because new transit infrastructure benefits all of society, costs should be shared â€” by business, drivers, and transit users. Since riders contribute through fares that rise regularly with inflation, the panel chose not to ask more of them. We have asked the government to redeploy the HST revenue it earns on gas and fuel taxes.
As for the tools, our report outlines two variations on a new funding model. The first combines a phased increase of gasoline and fuel taxes starting with 3 cents per litre in year one, a modest increase of 0.5 per cent to the general corporate income tax, and a redeployment of the GTHA portion of the HST charged on gasoline and fuel taxes. The second option is almost the same, but proposes less from gas and fuel, and more from HST.
Taken together, the combined increases would raise between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion annually for transit in the GTHA. This revenue stream would then lever the additional borrowing to build three-quarters of the Next Wave sooner than expected. People would see the benefits from this investment, thereby generating support for The Big Move in its entirety. This revenue strategy also provides enough money to pay for local transportation improvements and to retire the debt over time.
We researched the possible options rigorously. We favour the gas and fuel taxes because they match usage, affect travel behaviour, are simple to administer, raise a lot of money, and havenâ€™t been raised in more than 20 years. Even with the increase, the GTHA would be below Montreal or consistent with Vancouver.
The impact on households is very tolerable â€” about $80 per household in year one, just $260 per household after eight years. Compare that to the cost of the gasoline wasted due to stop-and-start commuting for 32 minutes on a daily round trip if we donâ€™t remedy the situation. This amounts to $16 every week or $700 per year. The choice is obvious.
The most common and forceful message that emerged from all of our public meetings and consultations is that the public has very little trust in how transit decisions are made, how money is managed, and how projects are delivered. When it comes to funding transit, the public told us: â€œDedicate it or forget it.â€
We address these concerns head-on. Our recommendations, when enacted, will ensure that new revenue will be held in a segregated Fund to be spent solely on transit expansion in the GTHA. And they will guarantee accountability and transparency for how funds are spent and reported on.
We emphasize the importance of comprehensive, publicly available business case analysis prior to project approvals. We cannot afford to waste billions of dollars on projects that result in low ridership and huge operating subsidies.
We also cannot afford more congestion and more gridlock. We cannot afford continued losses in productivity and missed opportunities to create more jobs. We cannot afford more pollution and commuting stress. Above all, we cannot afford to wait.
Does this sound at all like Saskatoon? Â It was Toronto under Mel Lastman who felt he needed to freeze taxes.
Perks noted that Lastman froze property taxes during his first three years in office. During that time, the Toronto Transit Commission was rebuilding 18-year-old buses instead of buying new ones, and the backlog in road repairs was growing.
â€œWe had a mountain of backlog. We were in a profound crisis. Between provincial downloading and Mel Lastmanâ€™s tax freeze, we had a giant hole. Now weâ€™re catching up.â€
This weekâ€™s flooding demonstrates the need for sturdy infrastructure, said Di Giorgio, who on Tuesday was visiting homeowners hit with flooded basements.
â€œWhen you talk to people, theyâ€™re very irate, and you canâ€™t blame them. Theyâ€™re really upset that this kind of thing would happen and they blame the city for not having proper infrastructure.â€
Borrowing allows the city to do more capital projects each year, rather than put them off to future years, he said.
â€œTo do things quicker, you have to go more into debt. I do think itâ€™s okay to grow your debt a little bit at a time each year, because you do have to replace infrastructure.â€
This is what Toronto’s debt is being spent on.
In 2011, on Fordâ€™s insistence, the city froze property taxes. The next year he limited the increase to 2.5 per cent, in line with inflation.
About half of the borrowing was to pay for transit infrastructure, such as replacing worn-out vehicles. Other big-ticket infrastructure spending went to areas such as roads, parks and housing.
That is what happens when you put off infrastructure and transit spending. Â Eventually it catches up to you and it’s exactly what we are doing here in Saskatoon and it will take a couple of terms to catch up which will mean more debt.
Holding the line on taxes is always popular but those costs don’t go away. Â In Saskatoon it is our roads where we used to pay for but not longer do. Â Doubt me? Â Check out the 2012 Roads Report which gives funding options to city council. Â It includes this line.
Although funding for paved roadways has, in general, increased over the past decade, from 2003 to 2008 the annual roadway budget only increased by 0.5% per year, while Â the cost of treatments increased by 15.2% per year. This erosion of purchasing power, combined with the general ageing of the network, has resulted in a degradation of the roadway network since 2002.
Mike Gutek, the city’s infrastructure services manager, said old crumbling roads such as Koyl are a “victim of priority.” The road rates as “very poor” under the city’s ranking of which roads require resurfacing.
Roads are ranked based on condition and traffic volume. The city has 650,000 square feet of roads that are considered in “very poor” condition, but can treat 15,000 square feet per year under the current budget, Gutek said. Ten per cent of local roads in Saskatoon are rated as “very poor” and in danger of failing, according to the city’s latest assessment.
“(Koyl) has not failed. It’s in horrible shape, the asphalt is very old and it doesn’t drive that well,” Gutek said. “It’s really our worst condition (of road), but it hasn’t failed yet (and turned to gravel).”
Saskatoon has fallen way behind in road maintenance and repair as costs for fuel, asphalt and labour have skyrocketed.
Since 2003, the road repair budget has grown 31 per cent while the cost of fixing roads has jumped 216 per cent. But council declined last year to add a phased-in property tax increase over eight years to bring the annual roads budget up to the point where the city isn’t falling further behind annually. Instead, one-time funding was added for a number of individual projects.
City administration estimates $18.5 million per year is needed to maintain the current state of the roadway network. In 2012, roughly $9.5 million will be spent on roadway rehabilitation, including the discretionary funds.
Koyl is not in the city’s five-year road rebuilding plans and likely wouldn’t be fixed until the annual funding amount surpasses $18.5 million, city staff say.
Where does the money go?
The infrastructure department is tackling as priorities high-traffic roads that have completely failed or on the brink of turning to gravel, Gutek said.Â
Council likes to pick on Mike Gutek but when they give him a fraction of what he needs each year, what are city staff supposed to do? Â Year after year city council says that they hear that roads are our number one concern and instead hold the line on taxes and don’t add any more new money into roads.
So when does Saskatoon start to dig ourselves out this infrastructure hole that City Council has dug us into and how long will it take? Â How much debt will we have to take on to pay for these years where council made a negative infrastructure investment. Â As we have seen here and in Toronto, unpaid infrastructure bills come due with interest.
For the past 15 months, the brothers Ford have spent two hours on Sunday afternoons moonlighting as comically pugnacious AM radio talk jocks, jawing about key issues â€“ fiscal restraint, lazy politicians, the primacy of subways â€“ and shining a light on important community causes.
As they are targeted by aggressive local media, especially in the past two weeks as allegations of drug involvement swirled about them and the mayorâ€™s office suffered some key departures, their Newstalk 1010 show, The City, has proven a comfortable bunker where they can shut out their naysayers and regroup.
And while they may infuriate critics by using the showâ€™s bully pulpit to beat up opponents, the stationâ€™s management intends to keep them on the air for as long as it can without running afoul of Canadian election law. If they delay registering their candidacies for the 2014 election, it may be difficult to remove them until late in the race. (Mayor Ford has said he will be registering â€œthe first day I can possibly registerâ€ in early January next year.)
Newstalk 1010 hatched The City in the fall of 2011, with centrist councillor Josh Matlow as host because, according to the stationâ€™s program director Mike Bendixen, â€œa lot of our listeners were fed up with just hearing about all the screaming and yelling and nonsense that was happening at City Hall.â€ Six months later, after an overture by someone on the mayorâ€™s staff, Mr. Bendixen handed the show over to the Fords.
Critics instantly howled, but many of them have helped give the show a wider resonance than it might otherwise have. Twitter traffic during the shows overflows with mockery of the Fords, an apparent love-to-hate phenomenon. What are deemed as outrageous comments are dutifully reported, echoing out across social media.
That may be in part because sitting mayors hosting radio shows are rare in Canada. They are far more common in the U.S. One of the most high-profile examples was New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who regularly antagonized enemies and common folk alike who dared call in during his Friday morning radio show.
Two Star reporters viewed the video three times, a Gawker journalist once. The video appears to show Ford smoking crack and uttering an anti-gay slur. However, the Star could not verify its authenticity.
Doug Ford, as he did on Saturday, vehemently denied a Globe and Mail article that reported he had been a dealer of hashish in Etobicoke when he was in his teens and early 20s. â€œI was not a dealer of hashish in the 1980s,â€ Doug Ford said.
Rob Ford fired his chief of staff, Mark Towhey, without public explanation on Thursday. He said Sunday that he would not discuss â€œpersonnel issues.â€ He did deny a Star report that he had fired Towhey in part because Towhey had rejected his demand to seize thousands of dollars of football equipment he had donated to Don Bosco Catholic Secondary.
Rob Ford was dismissed Wednesday as Don Boscoâ€™s volunteer football coach. He said on the show that he had Don Bosco players â€œover at the houseâ€ after his dismissal. Though council loyalists have long advised him to quit coaching to focus on government, he also said he will now consider coaching offers from other schools.
â€œPeople keep coming up to me, saying, â€˜Have you retired from coaching? Are you getting another coaching job?â€™ As of now, I donâ€™t have a job. So if something comes up, you never know. But I really want to concentrate on getting, basically, our platform through,â€ he said.
Rob Ford read out the names of councillors who handed him another legislative defeat last week by voting against allowing expanded gambling at Woodbine racetrack. Doug Ford said the â€œvast majorityâ€ of councillors â€œcouldnâ€™t get a jobâ€ outside politics. He also pledged to reveal damaging information about any councillors who criticize him and his brother.
â€œI can go through all 44 councillors right now, folks â€” and Iâ€™m sure I could do it, but Iâ€™m not going to. But I have a message for the councillors: you want to keep throwing stones, Iâ€™m going to throw boulders right back at you. Itâ€™s very simple,â€ Doug Ford said.
The mayor called reporters a “bunch of maggots,” describing them as relentless and telling listeners “no matter what you sayâ€¦ youâ€™re never going to make them happy.”
His brother, Councillor Doug Ford added that only “80 per cent of them are nasty son of a guns.”
As for the denial of the video, Warren Kinsella’s column reminds us of this
Arrested in Florida for drunk driving and drug possession; pleaded no contest on the former charge; denies it during the 2010 Toronto mayoralty race, until presented with the evidence by the Toronto Sun.
He has denied his past behaviour before.
As someone quipped on Twitter, Toronto is stuck in an abusive relationship with its mayor.
Excellent op-ed in the Winnipeg Free PressÂ byÂ Sam Tsemberis andÂ Vicky Stergiopoulos
In Canada, we conducted the largest randomized controlled trial of its kind in the world on homelessness by comparing housing-first to services as usual (the At Home/Chez Soi study) involving 2,255 participants who were homeless across five Canadian cities (Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver). The one-year results, recently reported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, indicate HF is significantly more effective than services as usual in providing stable housing for people who had been homeless for years and who have complex clinical needs.
Also compelling was the finding that for every two government dollars invested in the HF program, $1 was saved. Savings were even greater for those who used services the most, with $3 saved for every $2 spent.
It’s no wonder the federal government supports housing-first: It is highly effective and can save money.
So Canada is on the right track. We have both funds and evidence-based policy for moving forward on homelessness. However, we still face two major hurdles in order to successfully meet a housing-first model.
First, the majority of programs currently funded across the country can be described as providing services for people who are homeless. Shelters, drop-in centres, and especially transitional or short-term housing programs must be helped to shift resources to programs that end homelessness instead. We will need to invest in providing training and consultation services to communities so they will obtain the guidance and support, timelines, and performance indicators necessary to move the system toward this new, much-needed direction.
The second hurdle concerns implementing housing-first programs so they are consistent with the basic principles of the model that achieved the outstanding outcomes in the At Home/Chez Soi study. Housing-first moves people rapidly from shelters or the streets into stable housing and provides evidence-based clinical and social supports to address social, mental-health, health, addiction, educational, employment issues and others. By providing services using a team approach and co-ordinating housing, clinical and social supports, this model reduces problems associated with fragmentation of services and improves inter-sectoral collaboration that usually plagues individuals and families seeking treatment.
In other words, housing-first, if implemented properly will transform public services across the country as we know them, and to do this effectively, teams will need adequate support and guidance to do so.
The video quality is poor but this is a great view of what is happening at Eva’s Phoenix
The City of Toronto appears to have â€œstarved and neglectedâ€ the Gardiner Expressway by spending millions of dollars below what had been budgeted for rehabilitation over eight of the last 14 years, the chairman of the public works and infrastructure committee charges.
The largest recorded difference is in 2009 â€” the same year a study commenced on potentially dismantling a section of the aging roadway â€” when the city allocated $20.3-million in funding, but only spent $3.2-million, according to a tally of budget versus actual expenditures dug up by finance staff, and obtained by the National Post.
I know all cities do this; Saskatoon included but it’s frustrating. Â We build infrastructure but then have no appetite to maintain it properly and then we have to deal with it falling down all over the place. Â Preventative maintenance isn’t sexy but look at the bills once they come due, they can be overwhelming. Â Saskatoon is looking at about a billion dollars in unfunded maintenance (which is for those keeping track, about a 1000% mill rate increase). Â We needed probably a 3% levy instead of the 1% one that we got just to keep our current road and bridge conditions. Â All across the country we just keeping digging a bigger and bigger hole.
Doug Ford spoke proudly of his frequent media criticism. â€œThink of this, folks, think of this: weâ€™re the only two elected officials â€” think what Iâ€™m saying here â€” weâ€™re the only two elected officials, Rob, in recent memory â€” federally, provincially, or municipally â€” number one, has put a halt on the gravy train, but number two, talks back to the media,â€ he said.
Rob Ford said, â€œWeâ€™ve done more in this administration than any other administration ever has, and the media just â€” I donâ€™t know what, I donâ€™t know what they want. I guess they want bankruptcy. I guess they want a ghost town. I donâ€™t know.â€
Doug Ford claimed that members of Chicagoâ€™s media had approached him during the trip to say, â€œWhat is wrong with your media? Theyâ€™re embarrassing your city.â€
Chicago outlets largely ignored the trip. NBC Chicago published a blog posting that called the mayor â€œobnoxiousâ€ and mocked his weight.
Weâ€™ve lost our moral compass in recent years â€” not by embracing gambling, but eschewing taxes. We have been contaminated by the anti-tax compulsions of American political culture that prevent governments from maintaining a progressive taxation system. This pathological aversion to taxation has driven the explosion of casinos everywhere, as governments rely on gambling to take money from the poor while sparing the rich.
Over the years I have received a lot of phone calls about a couple of people who are well-known on the streets of Saskatoon.
Others see them on the streets during the winter months and want "someone" to help them – that someone always being emergency shelter providers. The problem is that while these individuals want a place to live, they both are slaves to their addictions.
If you ask either one what they want to do, it’s to drink. Nothing else. There is no life separate from their next drink. Their desire for alcohol overwhelms even the ability to maintain personal hygiene or go to the washroom.
In the summer, my compassion for either one isn’t that high. A poor lifestyle decision means sometimes sleeping along the riverbank, but as the weather cools, that decision can lead to death. I have made many emergency calls over the years because of their alcohol or drug use. The cost of ambulance rides alone is significant, not to mention the repeated health-care costs.
But these two aren’t unique. Countless people with whom I have talked needed help, but would rather live on the streets than give up alcohol or drugs. The addiction has a bigger hold on them than their need for survival.
Life becomes a day-to-day existence.
Historically, we have simply waited for such people to hit rock bottom. The problem is, when life is so bad to begin with, there isn’t a big gap between doing great and reaching rock bottom. For many, the best life has been is time spent in prison or in a halfway house.
While to you and me the idea of spending the night outside might seem horrendous, for them it’s been such a part of their lives that it doesn’t even register as unusual.
Toronto has taken a different approach to dealing with such people. Seaton House, one of Canada’s largest homeless shelters, opened a "wet shelter" in 1997 where alcohol could be managed. In the past, shelters such as Seaton House forced people to be dry and sober before they came in.
While some did sober up, others found their addiction was too strong and went off in all sorts of weather to get their next fix. A relapse wasn’t just one beer but many, and often they would use a variety of substances such as mouth wash, rubbing alcohol, glue, gas, or even cleaners.
The chemical dependency makes it impossible for hard-core alcoholics to dry out, so the idea is to try to take them off it slowly. At Seaton House a drink is given every 90 minutes (five ounces of wine or three oz. of sherry) until the person can’t go on, or until he falls asleep. They are weaned off the alcohol over time. When the physical dependence is broken, more traditional approaches to treating the addiction can be undertaken.
A 2006 study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that a managed alcohol program reduces consumption.
Participants went to having eight drinks a day from 48 drinks. Police and hospital usage dropped, as well. The study figures it saved the system about $450 a month for each person.
While such numbers are difficult to quantify, it is important because it means more police available to fight crime and more hospital beds available for other patients. When you factor in the extremes of Saskatchewan weather, the savings could be potentially more.
Drug and alcohol abuse is not rational. No one wakes up hoping to drink a dangerous amount of moonshine or cleaner, yet it happens too often. They end up in emergency rooms or the police cells night after night.
On nights where there isn’t anyone around or something goes wrong, we hear about it the next morning and wait to see if the family releases the name.
Managed alcohol programs, such as Seaton House’s, provide a safe way to deal with chronic alcoholism and start the process toward allowing residents to finally deal with the issues that have dominated their lives. But critics have called similar programs "bunks for drunks" and see them as enabling alcoholism.
However, alcohol doesn’t need an enabler. When you are at the point where your desire for alcohol overwhelms your ability even to take basic care of yourself, a different approach is needed. It may not be one that we are comfortable with, but it’s better than having someone freeze to death.
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