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How to solve homeless issue?

Admiral Beez

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Listened to John Tory on CBC this morning where he identified (from his semi-Con perspective) the issues:
1) Lack of affordable housing
2) Mentally ill, including those refusing shelter
3) Refugees increasingly taking shelter spots

So, how do we fix this in the immediate term (now to end 2018), interim (2019 and 2020) and long term (2021 onwards)?

IMO, forcing developers to include affordable housing won't fix it, because the horse has left the stable on most real estate projects, and "affordable" is a moving target, vs. RGI. Mentally ill people do not need affordable housing, they need free or nearly-free housing.

I'd say we need government to return to building and owning the housing. But do we want more 1950-eras Regent Park low income mega projects? Mixed income like the new Regent Park is nice, but how does this move the line on addressing homelessness when all the developer did was replace existing RGI units while adding thousands of market value units?

If the government is back in the housing biz, where should the money come from? Well, refugees should be a Federal issue. What about relocating those who are unemployable to other cities in the province, ideally returning those from outside the city to their towns or family areas? No, I don't mean exiling the poor, but this is a massive, empty province with tons of space.
 
I don't think affordability is as important as it's made out to be. I say this as someone who is friends with multiple people who have been and/or still are essentially homeless. Affordability is not an issue for people who get along with their friends and families.
This leads me to what I think is the biggest underlying cause of homelessness which is mental health.

Mental health is still largely seen as unimportant in our society. No, I'm not joking. The joke here is how ALL aspects of psychological health are relegated to being secondary to physiological health, even though most health practitioners will tell you that the two are interdependent.

In any case, of all the homeless and formerly homeless friends I know 100% of them ended up needing help with housing because of mental health issues. Not one of them because rents are high or vacancies low.
You might think this could be because I'm in the middle class (or higher....LOL!) and therefore am friends with similarly financially able peers. That is not the case. The vast majority of my friends are working poor or low middle income. The very same people for who you would think affordability might be of supreme importance.
Well, no, they just band together to make it.

One of my little hobbies is to stop and chat with homeless people when I'm walking the streets. I ask them a lot of sometimes perhaps overly personal questions. This usually isn't an issue as they are more than happy to talk to someone who actually cares (though, I must admit, I'm not in it as any sort of wannabe Mother Theresa. I only do it because I'm a genuinely nice and caring person and because this sort of behaviour is what was inculcated in me through religious school).
From my conversations with these street people (and sometimes just vagabond hobo youth) I have learned that for the vast majority of the ones I have talked to, the underlying problem is, surprise, mental health.

Solving affordability is like trying to sweep the problem under a rug.
Solving mental health--and just general health--issues is like actually trying to solve the problem....besides, any rug you're sweeping problems under can't be that valuable to you.

That being said, sometimes I'm better at finding causes than solutions. I think a good start might be to increase accessibility to mental health professionals, as well as to mental health beds in expanded and new dedicated hospitals, and to start treating all mental health issues (including addiction....don't get me started) as general health issues like we do with physiological health.
 
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Admiral Beez, you're British, right? I'm assuming you travel there sometimes as well. Correct me if I'm wrong but is council housing (these days) not much better run in the UK than it is here, generally. If so, why/how?
 
This leads me to what I think is the biggest underlying cause of homelessness which is mental health.
If this is true (which it likely is), then maybe we should force homeless into shelters.
Maybe give out permits to the homeless and you have to display your permit or you will be put into shelter. Permit is only given to those who are mentally capable.
 
Forcing people into shelters doesn't solve the problem of homelessness nor the problem of poor mental health care. It might get people off the street, but as I said, are we trying to solve a problem or sweep it under the rug?
Shelters are a poor solution to treating a symptom, not a solution to treating said symptom's cause.
 
Forcing people into shelters doesn't solve the problem of homelessness nor the problem of poor mental health care. It might get people off the street, but as I said, are we trying to solve a problem or sweep it under the rug?
Shelters are a poor solution to treating a symptom, not a solution to treating said symptom's cause.
I agree. Fix the mentally ill issue, and we fix a good portion of the homeless issue. Wasn't it Bob Rae that closed down the mental institutions in the the hope that government cheques would enable these folks to integrate into regular society? We don't need a return to Belam-like asylums, but I see no reason (beyond government funding and priorities) to match for mentally ill folks what we do for retirement homes, with a mix of state and private permanent assisted housing.

Admiral Beez, you're British, right? I'm assuming you travel there sometimes as well. Correct me if I'm wrong but is council housing (these days) not much better run in the UK than it is here, generally. If so, why/how?
My Grandad lived in a council house, but then Thatcher sold it to him for a song. Most of the mixed income Council Homes were sold off thus. They do have the large tenement-like projects of RGI or Council houses, but these are full of chavs and beset by a culture of pan-generational welfare-dependence, idleness, vandalism and crime.
 
I agree. Fix the mentally ill issue, and we fix a good portion of the homeless issue. Wasn't it Bob Rae that closed down the mental institutions in the the hope that government cheques would enable these folks to integrate into regular society? We don't need a return to Belam-like asylums, but I see no reason (beyond government funding and priorities) to match for mentally ill folks what we do for retirement homes, with a mix of state and private permanent assisted housing.
I thought there was a case and the Charter Right for these people to freeze exceeded societies responsibility to care for them.
 
I thought there was a case and the Charter Right for these people to freeze exceeded societies responsibility to care for them.
I think they would be more willing to live in shelters if they had a room of their own for privacy and to keep their belongings safe though. It seems a lot of the shelter spaces have dozens of beds in a room? In that case you only need one homeless resident to be unstable/problematic to make things rather unpleasant for every one else.
 
Biting cold exposes deeper rot in Toronto’s attitudes to poverty
Luke Savage
The Globe and Mail


This state of affairs has long been mirrored by a penny-pinching ethos dominating both city hall and the upper levels of government. Instead of assessing need, public policy in Canada has increasingly concerned itself with "finding efficiencies." That has meant cutting costs and reducing the quality of public services, while slashing taxes and public spending and taking an ever more removed and technocratic eye to the actual human consequences.

The problems facing Toronto's shelter system and their root causes aren't going to be solved without heavy lifting. As groups like the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario have argued, fixing short-term inadequacies will have to be paired with a more sweeping strategy involving all three levels of government to improve income security, strengthen mental health, addiction, and overdose prevention services, and make affordable housing the national priority it used to be.


https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opi...orontos-attitudes-to-poverty/article37513385/
 
Homelessness does indeed have many causes and mental illness is often a contributing factor as is addiction.

However, there are other causes. But its solutions we require.

In that spirit, a grossly over simplified set of proposals.

1) A concerted effort to tackle the addiction issues by make an extremely robust short-term program in which people who agree to addiction treatment can have immediate access to help on an in-patient basis and any backlog of people now waiting is arrested.

2) Expand in-patient mental healthcare for both short-term and long-term stays, again w/a temporary boost to an even higher level to address the backlog of care.

3) Build (re-build) shelters w/ an eye to getting people to be willing to use them in non-crisis situations; and design them so that 'residents' can access a full-suite of support services (health/mental health/housing/employment and benefits) that will enable many to find themselves in better circumstances.

Prescription for that, shelters should be small, one-person rooms, w/twin beds, about the size of a prison cell (no equation to criminals just a descriptor). Said rooms should be lockable, by the Residents. Thus providing privacy, security and hygiene.

Shelters should have a max. capacity of 100 to keep people as people and not 'numbers' to staff.

4) Universal prescription drug care; important so that no one fails to take medication due to cost.

5) Construct 'supportive housing' that his permanent. A bridge level between conventional public housing and institutional mental health beds. Where residents have their own private apartments, but have some assistance and support on-site, and wellness checks from RNs or the like.

As little as 500 units would make an enormous difference.

6) Drastically increase housing support payments under OW, particularly for single people; but partially off-set the cost by increasing RGI rents that are literally too low.

TCHC has average rents around $370 per month; actually below the shelter allowance provided by the province. That has negative effects by depriving the system of needed dollars and of creating an artificial incentive to be on the waiting list for TCHC when you have no hope of ever getting a unit and have only a marginal need.

A better balance would be a shelter allowance at 80% of the median rent (roughly entry-level rent).

Off-set by TCHC rents that would be 40% of income (instead of 30%) or the OW Shelter allowance, the higher of the two)

This would reduce the waiting list allowing the highest priority individuals quick access and would also provide many people the option of private housing where that is not currently a choice.

7) Reduce the poverty-trap effect of the current net asset limits for OW recipients. I understand the desire to have such limits, but aside from generally increasing them, I think allowing a six-month waiver for new applicants so that people don't have to reach the edge of the abyss before we help.

Most of these aren't that expensive and could be done on a net-out basis for about 1B per year collectively.

Which is less than nominal revenue growth in just one year at Queen's Park.

The housing benefit changes plus, one-time cap-x on supportive housing and shelter redevelopment would add to the tab, but I think its very do-able amortized over 4 years or so.
 
Credit to The Admiral for starting this string. It's a tough issue with no easy answers, been involved in this in another city where the problem was *lack of supply* for those with no social issues, let alone those that do.
Mentally ill people do not need affordable housing, they need free or nearly-free housing.
This adage has been proven in a number of jurisdictions, where studied over a lifetime, it's actually far cheaper to provide a permanent living space than warehousing the homeless ad hoc. And shows remarkably fewer societal costs in doing so.

Quick answer to the poster asking about UK Council Housing. The 'load' has fallen onto Co-op Societies to provide the needed housing, a massive topic in itself. It's suffice to say that the UK is in an even worse situation than most of Canada right now. If solutions apply from other nations, it will be mostly the Nordics.

Again, it's a brave but necessary topic, sorry to just dip my toe in on this, but The Admiral gets my respect for hosting it.

Addendum: Even though doing a brief appearance in this string, I must at least reference my major claim, and there's far more than I thought available!

Pardon titles, these are links, so click them:
Canada Could End Homelessness. And It'll Only Cost You $46 A Year
Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving
Housing mentally ill homeless cheaper than alternative: study - CBC.ca
Medicine Hat has almost eliminated homelessness by giving ...
Cost of homelessness: Governments will save money by spending on ...
Give the Homeless Homes | The New Yorker
Housing homeless cheaper, more effective than status quo: study ...
Meet Jessica Pearce, the woman buying houses for Melbourne's ...
Lessons from Finland: helping homeless people starts with giving ...


That was just the first page of Google hits. The results were far more from Canada and around the developed world than I would have thought to have been the case.

There are no cheap answers. But the Status Quo is one of the most expensive.
 
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I don't know what Bob Rae really did....I was only starting elementary school during his tenure.
I do, however, know that the state of mental health care in this country is a sad joke, with the added benefit of not actually being funny. The reason I brought it up is because I think decent psychological health care would do wonders in helping to prevent homelessness and not just treat it after someone is already far gone enough.
When I was suicidal many years ago I had to wait 3 months to see a psychiatrist. How is that at all helpful? If I had actually done a half decent job of it, I'd have ended up in a hospital and seen one right away....or I'd be dead. Instead, I tried getting help and was told to wait. 3 months is a long time when you're losing it, believe me.
Again, I honestly think we need to rethink how we treat mental health in our society and I can guarantee you it will go a long way to helping people keep their lives together.

See, housing someone after they're already homeless is a massive necessity, obviously, but keeping someone from becoming so unwell that they end up that way is even better. Cure the cause, don't treat the symptom.

That being said, Northern Light's ideas are straight good.
Regarding the attempts at attaining TCHC housing, I can fully agree. One of my aforementioned unfortunate friends became homeless shortly after having a psychotic break and being diagnosed with schizophrenia. At first he thought he'd try shelters. I don't know what they're like but he wasn't very impressed. He was lucky enough to have money stashed away and so moved himself around various motels for a few months until he ended up taking a place in a dodgy rooming house at his mum's urging (after she started talking to him again after 6 or so months).
Needless to say, that wasn't the best place for him either so, after a year of taking his meds and working here and there through a temp agency, he got a market rent flat on his mum's name. He has spent the last 4 years paying market rent for a shabby flat all the while dreaming of TCHC. What he really needs is an incentive to work more and a stop-gap subsidy on his market flat so that he doesn't feel like he's wasting his time working just to pay rent.
PS: he's super stoked about the higher minimum wage.


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Re: council housing
I'm a bit of a dork. I get all my ideas of UK housing estates from TV and film. Fail.
Though, don't worry, we have chavs and inter-generational dependence here as well.
 
I think they would be more willing to live in shelters if they had a room of their own for privacy and to keep their belongings safe though. It seems a lot of the shelter spaces have dozens of beds in a room? In that case you only need one homeless resident to be unstable/problematic to make things rather unpleasant for every one else.
At St. Simon’s church on Bloor the shelter is semi permanent, where beds are in open spaces, but everyone gets a locker and an assigned bed. This is essentially your address, your mail comes here, etc. Seems like a good model to address those concerned about safety and permanence in shelters.
 
Problem with communal shelters is that sometimes people suffering paranoid delusion, for example, can't really function in such an environment.
 
Problem with communal shelters is that sometimes people suffering paranoid delusion, for example, can't really function in such an environment.
So it looks like we want individual room.
What size, maybe 8 to 10 m2 with bed, desk, and chair?
How about bathroom - each room with its own, or a common 1?
If the room is not taken care of, are they thrown out?
 

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