When I started travelling with Angels of the Road back in 2009… I would never have imagined I would be able to say what I am about to say, “we have come a long way baby.” For me as a worker in the shelter industry, all I ever wanted was to see progress in getting the homeless housed; so that industry resources and workers could be focused on helping the street people (drunks, druggies & drop-outs). We are unlikely to eradicate homelessness 100% unless we rethink what it means to be housed. But with affordable housing initiatives and supportive housing, we can reasonable expect a 70% reduction in homelessness.
The good news out of Homeless Hub this week is that Edmonton Alberta has reduced their homeless population by 30% and that Alberta’s 10 year plan to end homelessness is on track. Apparently 6,600 people have been re-housed, 1600 have been taken into a Housing First program for hard to house... and of those people a whopping 80% are able to maintain housing. For those of you who don’t know, the Housing First Model targets people with disabilities, mental health issue, addictions and concurrent disorders. Once this population has housing it is easier to provide consistent and ongoing supports for their health and well being. This Housing First model actually reduces costs of providing services by around 60%. Currently the cost for shelter services per homeless person is $100 a day or $3000 per month. The income support system allows $600 -$700 per month per person; which does not allow any “wiggle room” what people used to call rainy day (emergency) funds to hold people over in a minor crisis. In fact at the current rate of payout one cannot hope to meet day to day necessities. An income support system which offered a base of funds at $1200 per month would ultimately save taxpayers $1800 per month per person and give people enough income to live without additional services.
Whatever myth you are labouring under; NO this will NOT make people lazy… it is our nature to want to be productive and to contribute to society. People you are seeing caught up in this system who appear to you as lazy, are beaten down by that system and have given up on ever being more or having more. We invented this system in the 1950s and whatever small modifications we have made over the decades it still remains judgmental and punitive. We need a new way of dealing with poverty one which reflects the realities of the 21st century and the global economy. Enough said, today is about celebrating our successes. When the journey is long, knowing how far you have come always makes the road ahead a little brighter and easier to walk. Never be afraid to look back, but never stop moving forward... it is the only direction we have ;-) Have a joyous day my friends.