Today I read the following quote in the Ottawa Citizen. "It's not a lack of resources. It's not an absence of will. It's a glaring failure of execution." This statement was made regarding Canada's health care system but it holds true for the shelter industry and probably education as well (though I can't speak to that personally). I can tell you as citizens and tax payers, we want to see our tax dollars used effectively. As social workers, we want to see our clients move out of the system and back into healthy, independent (tax paying) lives. As clients living in shelters, we want guidance and support specific to our needs, so we can make the aforementioned move.
Much of what I am saying today will ring familiar, scattered about in previous blogs. They do bear repeating and today they will be brought together in one (I hope) cohesive statement.
The shelter system was born to feed and protect (usually from the elements) street people. It did this well, and still does. Over the past few decades homelessness has changed. Our demographic now includes economic homeless and medicals (for more detail see The Good, The Bad & The Homeless under the Essays and Observations tab. As these new demographics began to appear in the shelter populations, agencies added a variety of supports intended to meet their needs. The shelter industry has been reactive, and most of what we do is trial and error. Grounded in the published results of various attempts at research by 3rd parties... We proceed on the information available trying to make the best use of the resources we have. If we are to increase successful outcomes for our clients, the shelter industry needs to become proactive. In fact as taxpaying citizens we need to be proactive...start pressing government at all levels to create affordable home-ownership initiatives. How by partnerships with Habitat for Humanity... Co-operative housing projects... and/or geared to income mortgages. Governments make BAD landlords, and subsidized housing is usually over priced and under maintained. If you are asking why should I (taxpayers) care about this...take a quick look at the essay "Money Talks" which outlines the economic benefits of affordable housing $1.5 Billion dollars of disposable income pouring back into Canada's economy every month. Increasing business incomes and the returned taxes from those gains. Let's get the poor out of the shelters, so as social workers we can actually help the people who need us.
So how can shelters become proactive... first it involves diversification of facilities. Rapidly assessing each client, then moving them directly into a facility appropriate to their needs. Each facility will have protocols, specific to the needs of that client group. Because such a model would reduce further damage and enhance personal growth out of the current situation, we could anticipate a greater incidence of successful outcomes. We have the resources... we have the will... let's change our execution. Such a change won't make the world a perfect place... but it would become a little better than where we are now.