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. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Beginning of the End

Hi Friends, it has been a month since I last blogged and I apologize for that, the truth is that when I can make time to write I am working on the report of my findings. Basically just summing up what I have learned about the shelter system and services to the homeless across Canada. I’m thinking I’ll share it with you as I go along… hope you find it interesting. Today I will include the prologue and methodology section, pretty boring stuff but necessary to understanding the rest of the paper. Next time we will get into the observations. Please understand the paper is divided into sections Observations followed by Conclusions which is followed by Recommendation. What will appear are just observations… there is no judgment being made here; so don’t get all huffy and defensive on me. Nobody on the planet has more respect and appreciation for the hard work, dedication and commitment of people working in the shelter industry, than I do.

A REPORT of FINDING for Angels of the Road
Two years of living with Canada’s Homeless
         Initially it was my intention to present these findings to you as a formal research paper, however I find myself uncomfortable using that format. I will submit this report written in the first person because I lived it in the first person, and I funded it in the first person.  My only responsibility here is to the truth, good or bad.
         I will not waste valuable space listing my credentials; for more information than you could possibly want to know about me, please go to my website
www.AngelsOfTheRoad.com  and click the ABOUT tab. You will find my resume, biography, philosophy and a brief synopsis of “the journey” (as I like to call it).
        This study is meant as a qualitative analysis of program delivery to homeless and indigent population. No hard statistics have been kept… those are available through any number of government departments and stakeholder organizations. The study makes no mention of individual facilities, unless they stand as a strong example of success (or failure) for other agencies to use as learning models. No single agency has it all wrong or all right, with the possible exception of Centre 454 in Ottawa which is doing stellar work in all areas of drop-in services.
         In no way should this document be taken as an indictment of the shelter industry. Almost everything I experienced indicates good people doing the best they can with the limited resources and information which was available. It is my sincerest hope that the shelter industry, social planners, and researchers in this field will use these finding to guide the evolution of service delivery to Canada’s homeless. Resulting in shorter shelter stays with improved recovery and reintegration for all client populations.

The content of this document and the Angels of the Road website/blog site is copywrited to the author / researcher Bonny L. Cameron (me) and must be credited accordingly in any reproduction or distribution of these documents in whole or in part. The free (and wide) distribution of these copywrited materials is encouraged; however if anyone profits (financially) from the use of same, an appropriate compensation to the author can be made by donation at the www.AngelsOfTheRoad.com website.
An Examination of the Shelter Industry in Canada 
& the Efficacy of Program Delivery
 as It Impacts Client Outcomes.
(working title)
          This observer/participant study involved almost two years of information gathering which was done from May 2009 – October 2011 (
less 4 vacations of approximately 1 month) . The study took place in 15 cities throughout Canada, except (due to accessibility and funding issues) the far north. Over that period of time I lived in 12 shelters with capacities ranging from 8 – 300 occupants. Attended programs offered to the homeless through 15 drop-in centres and accessed 24 meal programs.
          The study involved total immersion with the subject population. Stays varied from 3 weeks to 4 months depending on the size of the homeless population with whom I was assimilating.

Constant for this project was the use of a single researcher, me
Variables were basically everything else; size of facility/ population/ protocols/ staffing/ orientation (secular or religious)/ provincial government priorities/ funding sources/ etc. etc. etc.
Anyone wishing to verify my results can do so by simply repeating this process for themselves.

           I presented myself as a middle-aged woman, between jobs, without ties to the city, checking into the potential job market and looking for a new place to settle down (all of which was quite true).           
It is human nature to modify our behaviour when we are being observed; so to prevent contamination of the study, the subject staffers and clients were not informed of the my full purpose until the end stages of each stay. I lived with and among the client population for up to 4 months at a time with 4 visits home to Calgary of 4-5 weeks between each leg of the journey dubbed Angels of the Road. This immersion process allowed me to get unvarnished feedback from clients. Further I was able to observe client to client, staff to client and management to staff interactions on an ongoing basis revealing patterns of interconnectedness between these. 
Ok Guys that is today's installment, I promise others will be shorter... if you have visited the website lately you may have noticed that I removed the guest page... my overnight hit count jump to 55 so I suspect that someone had place a link to porn on the page. Counts are now back to normal 15 overnights and 40ish per diam. I have no problem with what consenting adults choose to do in their spare time but that is not what Angels of the Road is about, Thanks for understanding...Have a joyous day.