Saturday, July 24, 2010

Good Money After Bad

Saturday seems to be my day for blogging… so this week let's step out of the personal and back into the practical. I mentioned before about how my friends sometimes bring up things that I had not considered prior. One of those things is the matter of funding for shelters. As I have said before, I do NOT want to see funding to shelters increased… I want to see shelter populations decreased.
Now for the bitter truth, even if I waved a magic wand and the homeless completely disappeared, your taxes would NOT be reduced. The government would just find someplace else to spend it and I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to show up in health, welfare or education. But enough of my political cynicism. All I really want to see is more effective use of the money we are already spending. This is not a problem unique to the shelter system, so much of what we are doing in health, welfare, and education is reactive. We need to establish systems which reward results. Often clients have said to me that we don’t give them the right support and tools to get out of the shelter system, because, if there were no homeless, we would be out of a job. My response was, “Untrue… even if one client were to leave permanently there will always be some new troubled soul to take his/her place". I am starting to feel differently about that, maybe there is a grain of truth, at least at the agency level, I still believe individual workers care about client outcomes.
The province pays my current residence $95 per day per person for those who qualify and those who do not qualify stay in another harm reduction centre for a flat fee per head. Head count is the way most shelters are subsidized….in Sask it is $65 for a matt or bed + breakfast. Here 2 meals + bed $95…. Alberta under $30 per person matt/bed and meals are funded elsewhere. These shelters function under a “Harm Reduction Model so no services are offered and clients are not approached individually with options for self improvement or recovery.Wholistic shelters like the DI have many services on site but clients must seek out what they need. Where I am staying there isn’t even an attempt to demand basic civility from clients. This leaves them totally unequipped with the skills necessary to co-exist in society, much less land and keep either a job or an apartment.
If we altered the funding model so agencies were rewarded for successful outcomes perhaps we would see more helping and less wrangling of homeless people. I would propose that an agency be given a flat rate per day for each bed (50 square feet of dorm space). Providing meals and a cook would be funded separately by the number of beds per building. If they are successful in moving clients out and getting the population numbers down… the reward is more working capital in the budget. Money which could be used to purchase needed equipment, bring in tutors, and provide various upgrading initiatives. Funding would be stable and there would be incentive to give some REAL help to shelter clients.
Next time I’ll talk about affordable housing apparently there is much confusion about what this means and the costs to our society. As always I would love to hear your comments so feel free to share your thoughts with us. Anyway must go for now …have a joyous week.

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