We know that chronic homelessness is a challenge that is complicated by social issues like addiction and mental health. Safe, stable housing is an essential element in addressing homelessness and the problems that can often come with it. This is why the HPS takes a Housing First approach with a focus on chronic homelessness.
For Canada's veterans the Throne Speech was a big flop. It devoted a total of 10 sentences to vets, and only two of them said anything about Harper's plans. The other six were self-congratulatory backslapping: meaningless rhetoric from a government which appears to think supporting veterans is as simple as saying those words over and over.
I see him everyday, standing out in the street in the heat or the cold fighting ghosts in his head. All too often in Canada, the street or the emergency ward has become the place where those with severe mental illnesses end up. Those with mental illnesses make up a disturbing percentage of the homeless.
On any given night, thousands of Canadians languish in ramshackle housing, line up at shelters, or sleep in our streets and alleyways. This situation is not limited to our big cities, with the Homeless Hub estimating that on any given day, 30,000 Canadians are without homes. How can it be that in such a prosperous country, we continue to struggle to house those most in need?
On any given night in Canada, 30,000 people are homeless. These are people -- men, women, and families -- who are unsheltered, in emergency shelters, or in temporary "provisional" accommodations. The report also notes that as many of 50,000 Canadians may be "hidden homeless;" those who are staying with friends, family, or relatives, but it can be difficult to gather correct data for these instances.
Issac Newton said that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. While this may be true for physics, it certainly does not carry over into interpersonal matters. Often the gentlest of gestures, smallest of actions or the quietest of whispered kind words will have an avalanche effect on the lives of others.
Something largely overlooked by wide media coverage of the federal government's Economic Action Plan 2013 was that it marked a significant change in the way we will tackle homelessness in this country. The policy lens dramatically shifts from supports for "helping the homeless" to "ending homelessness."
My daughter would come home sad everyday. She would cry every week. We would have pep talks regularly, but I could not mend her broken heart. I could not take back the words kids said to my child. Her loneliness haunted me. As a mother, I was watching a child dying on the inside. It was like watching a beautiful flower wilting in the cold.
With support from Electronics Arts, the Directions Youth Services media room helps street youth find the voice many never realized was inside them. Co-ordinator Colin Ford and the staff teach music, art, audio recording, film-making, computer literacy, digital media skills and teamwork. They provide an opportunity for social inclusion and creative expression where it might not have existed before.
Project Winter Survival is a remarkable event where volunteers come together to help the homeless survive the cold winters. With the growing Canada-wide demand for Project Winter Survival's kits, being able to help as many of the homeless as possible is what my Bargains Group team pushes for, and this year were able to pack and distribute 3,000 kits.
Homelessness is more than a social issue, it's a health issue. At Home/Chez Soi has housed about 1,000 people with mental illness in five cities across Canada. Many of them are thriving. A chronic lack of affordable housing and stable employment opportunities that pay a living wage for low-skilled workers are often the reason people end up homeless in the first place.
The hardest part of that week was trying to maintain some semblance of normality in every other aspect of my life. I tell this story for one reason: to highlight the incredible resilience of those living on the streets. I was fortunate. My experience was fleeting, and yet, that brief stint of not having a place to call home impacted me greatly.