Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Observations: Part 1 Demographic

         Who is Homeless: First I observed that the homeless populations in other cities were very similar to that of Calgary with 50% being homeless primarily due to poverty, 20% being due to medical issues mostly mental health issues and 30% being street people struggling with addiction, concurrent disorders and/or undiagnosed mental illness. These numbers break down a bit differently in the DTES (Down Town East Side) Vancouver with easily 50% being street people.
         Some sources would like to have us believe that mental health issues account for 80% of homelessness, this very misleading (albeit comforting) because it includes people dealing with situational depression, which I contend is a normal response to finding oneself homeless. Not being depressed by such circumstances, would indicate something very mentally unhealthy within the subject’s thinking. The same could be said regarding drinking… not every homeless person who drinks is homeless because of alcohol addiction. Many are drinking as a coping mechanism for a difficult situation; for self-medicating the depression or as a sleep aide; lack of privacy, ongoing noise from other residents, 24hr lighting, antiseptic smells and body odors all make normal sleep difficult to achieve.
           Most homeless from all three population groups (poor, street people, medicals) are white males age 20 – 60… with visible minorities from the same age group comprising about 10% of the overall population. This shifts slightly as we move from east to west, homelessness among the urban Native population is visibly smaller east of Thunder Bay. There may be several factors at work, but from my conversations with Natives it would seem that conditions on eastern reserves are somewhat better than those of their western counterparts. Women of all populations (poor, street people, medicals) and age groups account for about 20% of homeless.
          Newfoundland had no year-round shelters… which I was given to understand would be changing as of winter 2011. This is due in part to a vigorous re-housing program for medicals… and the low level of migrant populations. Anyone who lives on the rock has family or friends who will put them up at least part of the time. Those who are completely on their own camp out or squat over the summer months. During the winter months there is an Inn from the Cold type sleep program in various church basements. Since I was there in summer, I only have reports from local social workers to confirm the above.
           Saskatchewan had a lower percentage of female homeless… I am not sure why that is different. The shelter where I stayed was dry and seemed to function as a stepping stone for woman entering a rehab program.  If you were not in the rehab program the bed was billed out at $10 per day for a stay up to one month. When I asked the women who lived among the street population where they would sleep, all seemed to have a place of their own. Very often they would invite me to come spend the night with them.  The women there seem to look out for each other... this is something of a "chicken and egg". 
      Edmonton has a commendable re-housing program for medicals which is operated by a group called E4C… this allows a distinguishable difference in the demographic between Edmonton and Calgary.  Also I observed fewer seniors using the shelters in Vancouver due to B.C. government making susidized housing for 50+ (drunk or not) a priority.
If you have been following me for a while you know I am NOT a supporter of subsidized housing. Too much graft and corruption, tax payers do not need that.
Have a joyous day. 

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