I was heartened to read in two separate accounts of the At Home/Chez Soi project that the Mental Health Commission of Canada is leading (Huffington Post: http://tiny.cc/cpdkn. Ottawa Citizen http://tiny.cc/qcxuy ). Both pieces indicated that the project was on target to prove what all affordable housing providers know, it costs society less to keep a person in a home than on the street.
In Ontario the provincial government funds programs through various ministries; the City of Ottawa distributes money from the Federal, Provincial and its own programs. The seriousness of our homelessness problems are never as visible as they are in the winter when there are double digit temperatures below zero.
The At Home/Chez Soi project has done much to show that when there is a concentrated effort to provide a home there is more needed than just a roof. Life skills as simple as respecting and getting along with others can be more challenging than finding a place to live. The solitude of not having others watch and try to control their lives is one aspect of not having a home that appeals to many. The At Home/Chez Soi Project address these issues with support and follow up with the clients in the program.
While the monetary benefits help everyone and all levels of government, the greatest benefits go those who have the support and new encouragement to live an independent and healthy lifestyle. Benefits reach into the most important streams of our live from Health care, Emergency Medical services, Policing and our Judicial System. Savings in these areas can partially fund the continuation and expansion of the program. Though he does not quote any financial numbers, Malcolm Gladwell writes in his piece “Million Dollar Murray” (http://www.gladwell.com/2006/2006_02_13_a_murray.html ) the impact that the homeless have on many aspects of our society.
It is my hope that well before the At Home/Chez Soi Project ends in 2013 a firm commitment is made at the Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels of government to continue and expand the program to include cities outside of those currently (Moncton NB, Montreal QC, Toronto ON, Winnipeg MB and Vancouver BC) involved. It is incumbent on our community leaders to press Government leaders to openly discuss the role each plays in ending homelessness and providing greater assistance to Non-Profit housing organizations to meet their individual mandates for the level of care they provide their residents. The plight of the homelessness is just as important to our society as looking after our elderly and fragile, ensuring a stable Health Care system and good economic government policies. These are not only individual but collect concerns for a strong Canadian society.
I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.