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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Homelessness - who is benefiting from programming?

About 1 in 200 people in North America are without a home.  Depending on how one wants to define homelessness, these numbers are more likely two to three times higher.
In the extreme incidence of homelessness, individuals may not be able to receive subsidy checks, open bank accounts, get health care because of lack of a free insurance number, or obtain any form of identification because of a lack of address.  Not only are they homeless, but they become almost invisible to a system that is dependent upon identity to function. The gradient extends across the UNs criteria for housing which include; the shelter must protect the occupants from the elements, provide safe water and sanitation, provide for personal safety, and the criteria extend to being located near employment, education and health care, and be affordable.
Those that have permanent housing that erodes a significant portion of monthly income (>30% but realistically some are over 80% of costs going to housing) are considered at-risk for homelessness. Considerably more individuals live a “street oriented” lifestyle, which frequents public locations for social benefit and may extend to activities that supplement incomes (including sexual services), or as coping mechanisms for certain addictions. About 70% of street oriented youth have attempted to escape situations of physical or sexual abuse in their homes. 
Roughly ½ of homeless persons have a chronic mental illness.   Half have challenges with substance addictions (a proportion struggle with both).   “Homeless persons” are at risk for being victims of violence, higher rates of infectious disease, higher rates of certain chronic illnesses.  They often require hospitalization more frequently and are at a significantly increased risk of death from a variety of causes, including extremes of temperature. 
Between 1999 and 2007, Canada had a National Homeless Initiative designed to provide for the fundamental need of shelter.  This changed under current government to a Homelessness Partnering Strategy which supposedly provides funding for community initiatives through to 2014 Homelessness partnering strategy .  It is an interesting exploration to try to find more information and determine what successes are being achieved.  While there are anecdotal stories of contributions to local initiatives, one has to wonder where the dollars are going and who is benefiting?   Seems like an excellent program for the Auditor General to try review to determine what and how well dedicated funds are actually benefiting persons on the street. The full program is supposed to provide an additional $1.5B – that amounts to about $8500 per homeless person in the country, presumably it should be make a huge difference, but somebody please tell me where the transparency is in how the money is being spent and what value is to be accrued. There is political currency is being seen as generous to the homeless population, but lets hold the political bodies accountable to deliver.
In the meantime local communities have often responded, not driven necessarily by altruistic motives to help the least fortunate of our communities, but often driven by economic concerns of addressing deteriorating urban core areas where businesses are struggling and perceive homeless persons as a impediment to attracting buying consumers to their shops. 
Homelessness is a real problem, something that requires dedicated and concerted effort to address and accountability for measuring success.   Ask your local, provincial and federal leaders what has been done and how has the money been spent?

1 comment:

  1. ana belle donnchada20 September 2011 at 21:37

    And yet some people (including health professionals and decisons-makers) perceive homelessness as a "choice" people make. It is then minimized to an individual problem rather than a societal or structural one-hence no one is responsible aside of the homeless person him or herself. Homelessness is like frequent ER usage; consequences of much larger political, social and structural issues.