Category Archives: homeless

‘Streets to Homes’ Makes Huge Impact for Toronto Homeless

When it comes to the homeless one program in Toronto appears to be working. Streets to Homes is an award winning program started in Toronto. Since it being in early 2005 more than 2,400 homeless people have found permanent housing.
Clients are saying that having a home of their own has changed their lives. They also say that they are using less alcohol and drugs now that they are off the streets. What is most amazing almost 91 per cent of those who have been placed in housing remain in housing. The program has a zero waiting list allowing them to help people quickly leave the street and enter into a home of their own according to Pat Anderson of the Toronto City housing department.

Research has shown that the those who are in the Streets to Homes Program are less likely to use costly emergency services in Toronto. Not only does this benefit the city but the cost impact is shared by the Province and the Federal government.

Housing officials are able to take the success of the program and leverage it with the provisional government for more funding.

The idea of the program is to bypass shelters or transitional housing and put the homeless straight into their own apartment. So far 2,400 have been placed in a home of their own according to Pat Anderson.

Not only does the program help the homeless have a place to sleep their health, mental health, food quality, sleeping, personal safety and social interaction has improved in the majority of cases.

An important component of the enhanced service is a single phone number for the public for those who are street involved in the downtown core. The staff is then able to direct the person to the right social service approach that is needed.

The program is operated by City staff with partnerships with 25 community non-for-profit agencies. The program was one of the finalists for the 2007/08 World Habitat Awards.

Toronto.ca reports:

“Streets to Homes is helping us to end street homelessness,” said Mayor David Miller. “It is making Toronto a more inclusive city, and the world is taking notice. This recognition is a tribute to both City staff and our community partners, who have worked together tirelessly and seamlessly to help some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

The model of Streets to Homes in use today is enhanced built from the 2007 Pilot Project. During the first 12 weeks of the 63 per cent of those who were panhandling stopped this practice.

The staff of Streets to Homes are down in the trenches. They engage with as many homeless people as they can. Not every homeless person is visible, some live in the ravines that most don’t venture into. The program helps not just the homeless but anyone who is ‘street involved.’ That includes people residing in shelters, homeless and those who have legal housing but panhandle.

“We are not telling people not to give or to give when it comes to panhandlers. What the city does believe in is directing people to social service response programs.”- Pat Anderson

The front-line workers work 24 hours a day in the winter and the summer with outreach programs. They have a mobile service that hits every part of Toronto. The program is in operation from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week during the fall and spring. There are currently 39 front-line City staff in the program, up from the 10 staff at the beginning of the program.

A recent study by the Ontario Association of Food Banks also found that the cost of
poverty in Ontario related to increased health care costs, crime and lost productivity was
$32 billion to $38 billion a year – the equivalent of 5.5 per cent to 6.6 per cent of
provincial GDP.

Once a person is in housing the average daily follow-up costs the city of Toronto a mere $10 combined with their housing costs total an average between $22 to $41 per day.

Those who wish to help can volunteer for the program. Ms. Anderson said that one program has volunteers going to apartment buildings that have several clients in them and setting up bingo nights and spaghetti dinners.


Housing The Alcoholic Homeless May Make Dollar Sense

The program, 1811 Eastlake, a Seattle shelter allows their clients to drink on the premises it has been controversial. It was part of a study that shows housing alcoholics can reduce costs.
According to a new study published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association
health care costs can be reduced when homeless people with severe alcohol problems are given housing without having to give up drinking.

Psysorg reports:

“Our study suggests that homeless alcoholics who qualify to take part in Housing First can stay out of jails and emergency rooms, and cost the taxpayer a lot less money as a result,” said Mary E. Larimer, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Washington and lead author of the study. “We also found that these benefits increase over time and that they are possible without requiring that participants stop drinking. And yet, the longer the participants stay in the housing program, the less they drink.”

Mary E. Larimer, Ph.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues studied 95 homeless people with severe alcohol problems that had been given housing under the Housing First program. They were compared with 39 persons that were on the waiting list as controls.

The cost of those being housed dropped from $4,066 a month to $1,462 in six months and then to $958 within a year of housing. The investigation showed the the housed subjects have lower costs of 53 percent over the first six months compared to those in the control study.

Modern Medicine reports:

“These findings support the basic premise of Housing First: providing housing to individuals who remain actively addicted to alcohol, without conditions such as abstinence or treatment attendance, can reduce the public burden associated with overuse of crisis services and reduce alcohol consumption,” the authors write. “Findings support strategies to retain these individuals in housing, including offering on-site medical and mental health services, supportive case managers, and minimal rules and regulations pertaining to their housing.”

The total cost for all 95 participants over one year was $8,175,922. This is cost of alcohol and drug detoxification and treatment, emergency medical services, Medicaid-funded services, jail bookings and days in jail.

After the one year mark the cost went down to $4,094,291 for the 95 participants members of the study.

Compared to those on the waiting list those in housing also decreased their daily drinking by 2 percent.

Seattle PI reports that the Housing First program has proved to be very successful.

“This is an extraordinarily successful program,” said Ron Sims, the outgoing King County Executive. He admitted Tuesday that he was among the many initial skeptics of the program, and that he had been concerned about it “enabling” alcoholism. He reluctantly allowed the county to fund it, with an initial investment of $2 million, followed by $240,000 a year in operational support.

“It was a doggone good thing to do,” he said. “Our return on investment has exceeded any expectation.”


Slammers Take It Straight To The Streets

What happens when you take the cold streets of Toronto and a group of Poetry Slam lovers? You get Straight to The Streets. Saturday the streets of downtown Toronto got a little warmer for some of the city’s homeless.

Gathering the troops at Queen and Bathurst organizer Tomy Bewick got the group ready to hit the streets with bags of donated coats, jackets, sweaters, gloves and torques. About twenty volunteers spilt up to pass out the cold weather clothing to those on the streets who needed it. Bewick is an up and coming poet from the streets of Toronto whose speciality is the spoken word or poetry slam.

The men and women who were offered the additional layers of clothing appreciated the warm smiles that came along with a new coat or pair of socks.

The event was completely grassroots. No organizations funded the process, just men and women who honestly wanted to help those in need. Those walking along the street toting the clear plastic bags filled to the brim with warm clothes got much more though than the ones on the receiving end. The smiles and thank yous made the cold sunny day a bit warmer.

Many who volunteered saw the event on FaceBook. There were some of those attending who knew others but some came out knowing no one just wanting to offer a hand.

The group scoured Queen St. from Ossington to beyond. The final resting stop came at the Yonge Street Mission on Gerrard St. East where the staff gladly took the remains of the day.

As event organizer Tomy stated at one point, “Just putting a coat over a guy at a bus stop made it all worth it.” Being in a position to help someone else always makes a person’s day just a bit brighter and warmer.

Discussions were already underway for the next stage of operation as a small group gathered for lunch. Do you want to be part of helping others? Check out the FaceBook event page and help make a change in the lives of others.


op-ed:Paul Tucker Kicked Out Of Homeless Shelter After Getting A Job

This story may sound a bit like the Grinch at first. Paul Tucker lives at Good Samaritan Haven. Today though he has to pack his bags and vamoose. He was kicked out because of looking for a job he has been helping out the Salvation Army.

See this is the part of the story you may go what a great guy at. He’s helping out others, he should be commended. Read on…….

Tucker received a notice from veteran case worker Norma Fleury at the homeless shelter that he lives at.

“Dear Paul,” it states. “Good Samaritan Haven will no longer support individuals volunteering for the Salvation Army. We provide housing for those trying to get their lives in order. You have until Dec. 1st, to find alternative housing.”

The average stay at Good Samaritan Haven is 29 days. That amount of time generally helps the men they serve to get a hand up and be able to find their own place. They are open from 6pm to 7am daily. They offer welcome, good meals, a clean house, beds, showers, washing facilities, some free clothing, and staff assigned to work out temporary or long-range goals. Individual needs are noted and followed up on by staff in a confidential interview. Information and referrals are offered for job openings, apartment listings, and other needs. This place works hard to serve their clients. They have the impressive number of 141 of the 232 people just this year of moving on and finding housing according to Paul Mascitti, the shelter’s executive director.

Paul Tucker has lived there since May. He knows they provide a nice hot meal. He also should know the rules. Clients are expected to be out there looking for a job. Tucker’s work history includes time spent as a small farmer, a self-employed painter, and, most recently, a maintenance man at the McDonald’s restaurants in Randolph and Burlington. He claims he can’t find work though. He did find a volunteer position with the Salvation Army ringing a bell for 10 hours a day. He receives a $20 stipend for that work. Tucker has been notified that his stay is up on Saturday.

Mascitti said he isn’t running a “free winter hotel” on North Seminary Street.

It may read like the Good Samaritan Haven is cold hearted. After all it’s 10 degrees today in Barrie. But consider that fact in when homelessness is a huge problem. That men are turned away when the beds have been filled. In the Barre area there are a total of four shelters. That’s not a lot when many are down and out. It’s not a lot when the people in them aren’t looking for a real job while they are panhandling money for the Salvation Army.

It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said, quickly conceding that he may have overstayed his welcome.

“In the period of time that I’ve been there I should have been able to move on,” he said, describing his future in central Vermont as “iffy” and a bus trip to Vergennes as “likely.”

“I need to go somewhere,” he said with a shrug. “That’s what she (Fleury) said.”

Tucker’s cases is a sad one. It’s hard to be jobless, homeless and without shelter during the holiday season. It’s also hard to make ends meet when you’re running a shelter. Those who use the shelter as a hand up get one. Those who use the shelter as a free bed get notice that there isn’t any more room at the inn.

“He’s not working toward a permanent solution,” Mascitti said, explaining that Tucker would have received a similar notice if he had taken a low-wage part-time job at a fast-food restaurant, or pursued an unreliable stream of income associated with finding “leads” for a local company that sells vacuum cleaners.

Mascitti thinks that a man willing to stand in the cold for 10 hours ringing a bell should have little trouble obtaining a job. It makes sense.

I can’t justify someone earning $20 a day and costing the (Good Samaritan) Haven $30 a night,” he said, adding: “While that person is taking up a bunk, someone else, who is willing to work toward a permanent solution, can’t be in that bunk … That’s just not right.”

In the end I can’t help but agree with Mascitti. Although at this time of year it seems cold and heartless to throw a man out into the night there are so many more needing his spot. It’s noble for Tucker to want to help those who are down and out. The fact that he’s one of those people though means he has to help himself first before he can give the time to the others.

Regardless Paul Tucker is without a home today.