Saturday, March 7, 2009

Aha: Knew there had to be More to Coleman Homeless Czar Announcement

Fast Fact: Homelessness in BC has increased 364% over the last eight years.

Auditor general: Province lacks plan on homelessness

Victoria Times Colonist. March 06, 2009.

B.C.'s homelessness problem is getting worse and government has no clear plan for fixing it, Auditor General John Doyle said in a report released yesterday.

Doyle said the provincial government doesn't even have a grip on the size of the homeless population, which the auditor believes is still on the rise.

Coleman said homelessness is actually on the decline in B.C., though he was unable to offer any statistics to back up his claim. [You can fool some of the people...]

Auditor General says BC failing homeless, no clear plan ahead

March 05, 2009

How the system works

February 08, 2009

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You know, it's too bad that a pending election and the rapidly approaching Olympics are the impetus for some real investment and action on decreasing the impacts of government public policy over the last eight years, or longer in Beautiful BC.

Over the years I've worked with many people who've found themselves homeless through no fault but circumstances and a social safety net that became so frayed it's now got gaping holes in it where help used to be. This iss equally true of children as young as 13, or 14, who often "vote with their feet" when it comes to staying in foster homes, or group homes. "Running the streets" when you're young can feel liberating and is fun in many ways, no rules, no adults telling you what to do, doing what you want, when you want. But, that's why the age of majority in BC is 19, young people most often do not have the capacity to make informed decisions about things sometimes. That also stands for people with serious mental and psychiatric illness, substance abuse issues and a combination of same, and those with invisible disabilities, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, to name only a couple.

Those of us who've worked with the homeless know that the younger you're on the street, the harder you will fall, the harder it will be to get back up and rehabilitate. When you're forced, everyday, to fight for your survival, to find the basic necessities of life, you enter a new "zone" or socialization. When you become part of the street culture, with it's daily perils and dangers, you enter into a world that works very differently. When you're on the street, you're often faced with a predatory world, personal safety is fragile 24/7, this can lead to a tremendous de-socialization that it is very difficult to come back from.

I've really be racking my brain trying to figure out how things have changed so fast that our very values of Canada have diminished (or been diminished) that we are no longer a model of care, compassion and dignity for our citizens. I know that may be somewhat naive, there have always been significant gaps in our social and public policies and supports to people, and this is exponentially so when considering the continuing shame of our maltreatment of Aboriginal peoples, but am I alone in feeling ashamed of how many people are being left behind, handed lives of suffering, to survive, barely, in the most undignified and appalling conditions?

The solutions never have been complicated and I am damn sick and tired of people saying they are. These are the most basic solutions that would see a significant decrease in public disorder, increase in safety in communities and assistance to those who need it most:

- Income assistance - increased accessbility, decreased barriers to accessing it in a timely way.
- Food security - food banks should not have become institutionalized. Individuals and families require adequate, nutritional food.
- A continuum of affordable housing - from housing to individuals, hard to house, addicts, families,
youth, foster care, seniors, mentally ill - independent, semi-independent, supportive communities
- Increased Targeted services - outreach to hard to reach and serve groups - mentally ill, youth, families, vulnerable seniors
- Expanded and improved Mental health, addictions & concurrent disorders assessment and treatment. A lot of people are receiving very little in the way of actual psycho-therapeutic intervention because systems are not designed to offer that, or are overburdened with workloads.
- Increased accessibility to high quality child care - this enables parents to work outside of the home, and offers children developmental opportunities they might not have otherwise, thus preparing them for entry into school.

I believe it is time for Canadians to get back to basics, to care for our most vulnerable citizens, not to construct and create lives of pain, desperation, impoverishment and marginalization. We are all a train wreck away from devastation in our own lives, most of us have no idea of our own vulnerability and the lack of support and resources until we, or someone we care about, are in that situation.

It's time for us to put our votes and voices to the test. We still live in a participatory democracy, while the choices may not always be palatable, we still have a right and obligation to vote and let our voices be heard at the ballot box. We need to send politicians and leaders in government very clear and loud messages that we won't stand for our province and country and our citizens to be treated with a lack of dignity, a lack of human rights, a lack of compassion and care anymore.

We are Canadian, let's make our governments and elected officials remember what that means.
Vote strategically and with knowledge of who has been part of the problem, or solution in BC.

On May 12 2009, vote with your conscience and hope for what BC can offer all of us for the future.

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