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Homelessness and Poverty

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I recently made this post, which started me thinking about what could be done to solve the homelessness and poverty a great number of people live in, and here I am talking about in developed countries, not the third world, that is a completely different problem.

I think there is a difference between poverty and homelessness, though often the two are very connected.

I can only speak to what I know, and as I live in the Vancouver area, that is what I will consider.

In the early eighties our government in all its wisdom, decided to close the main psychiatric hospital, and initiate a ”Back To The Community” policy. The idea being that those released from the facility would be given housing, with support to manage their lives, especially the taking of their medication. Good in theory, disastrous in practice. This has been tried in many cities around the world and rarely works. It takes a high number of support people to do so. Very quickly it started to fall apart, and a homeless population started.

Recently our government have said it has identified a number of people who they admit, really need to live in a supervised setting! Not a surprise.

The second group who have been identified as homeless, are those who are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. Drug use is a major problem now, and I am not going to attempt to say how that can be addressed, I don’t have the knowledge or the skills to do that.

There are also a number of people who are homeless because they have lost their jobs, or have jobs, but where they don’t earn enough to pay the exceptionally high rents of Vancouver. One thing we do desperately need here, is more social or affordable housing. This is a known issue, but though some inroads have been made, it is still woefully lacking.

Poverty obviously, is a major component in the above mentioned groups, but it also a component of a number of families who though they have housing, can barely, if even that, meet other needs, such as food and clothing

I worked within the school system as a nurse for four years, mostly on the North Shore, but also in Vancouver itself. Poverty exists in every postal code, in many instances, to a level hard to believe if you haven’t seen it yourself. I also worked as a volunteer in the school system as a tutor. There I learned that poverty comes in many forms. It is not just food and clothing, but the poverty of the mind, of the very spirit in some children, that in some ways I found harder to witness.

So the question raised in my previous post was, are we all responsible on a personal level to help those who are homeless or living in poverty? I believe we are. I believe we can choose not to do so, but that doesn’t mean the responsibility isn’t ours. In a comment in that post, I mentioned the “It Take A Village To Raise A Child” mindset, I think it does. We rarely raise our children in isolation. They have coaches for different activities, teachers at school, priests, pastors etc. the list goes on. If we who can, provide our children with others to help them in their growth to adulthood, why should that help be denied to children of those who are homeless or who live in poverty?

The ideal would be to be able to help the adults in poverty, and they in turn aid their children, but there is a cycle to poverty, and I think in some cases helping the adults, becomes a cycle of its own. Where that is the case, I believe we need to target the children. They need the aid and support to see that life can be different. In practical terms, they need not to be allowed to fall though those very wide cracks. They need people who will be there to aid them the whole way, until they can function fully on their own.

Homelessness and Poverty are two different things, but are often connected, that being said where is my responsibility? What can I do?

There are numerous organizations begging for money, but even more, they need volunteers, to get involved. If you live in the Vancouver area you know them, it would be impossible not to. The food bank is always short in an area where many of us never have to worry about our grocery bill. Supermarkets have donation tickets at their check-out stands, and the food bank can do more with your $2 ticket than you can give with donations of actual food. Imagine if all of us who could, added that ticket each week we shopped!

There are schools where some children can’t afford schools supplies or don’t have the money for special trips or programs, some of us could support in that area.

There are programs where people are needed to mentor a child in different ways, perhaps with homework. I once worked with a child, who was an ESL student. None of her family spoke English, and culturally they didn’t mix with others, the child only left the house to go to school. My job was to help with spoken English, but I quickly learned she had no experience outside of her home for even simple things, no interactions with other to help her to describe what she saw. We got permission from the family, for me to take her out in the immediate area for the period I spent with her. She was shy to begin with, but in time she started to get the idea. I spent several years with her, and she became the first in her family to go to college, that then opened the door for her younger siblings. Her mind and spirit were being fed, and it changed her view of the world. Now it wasn’t just me, there were others, but just giving her that time helped so much.

We can be more vocal at lobbying our politicians to address the homelessness, why vote for a party when we know that won’t be a priority for them.

When developers, initiate another building project, are we asking if there is a percentage of social housing included, I’ve done that, and was looked at as if it was something never even heard of. More developers are doing it, but it is still rare that the outcome is as promised.

I guess what I am saying is we can all get involved in some way, if everyone did, I think it would make a huge difference.

In my last post I also mentioned the death of Tim Jones. He was a man who saw a need and filled it. He saw where lives were being lost and created a search and rescue unit, many around the world are now modeled on. He wasn’t paid to do this, he was a volunteer. What if he hadn’t done it? What if he decided it wasn’t his job to do that. Tim Jones was huge, a larger than life figure, who did so much above and beyond what he needed to do. There are countless stories, but one that hit me at the time, was the rescue of a man, who while snowshoeing fell off a cliff. NSR were called, but the weather had turned for the worse. They could have lowered supplies to the man, but Tim Jones and another went down on the long line with the supplies. They stayed with the man for two days and nights, until it was safe to get them out. Is it any wonder that on Saturday, there will be a parade with honours, followed by a Celebration of the Life of Tim Jones?

We can’t all be a Tim Jones, but when it comes to those who are homeless or who live in poverty, there is something each of us can do, no matter how small, it will make a difference. If we are to share this planet with others, are we not in some way responsible for there welfare?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 25th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
Guess I'm too busy winning the euro cup these days and missed your posts.

And I think a proper comment would call for more brain activity than what I have at the moment.

Homelessness and poverty is a growing problem here too. Well it's the way capitalism works and the current crisis needs to be paid for.
I know I could do something and yes I should volunteer for some project, I probably even have the right education for it.
I believe we can make a difference, but it's also a grey-zone, we brag about our welfare-state, still everything gets cut down and has to rely on charity. In my eyes that's very wrong, not charity, but some things are just the state's responsibility, like shelters for homeless.

Okay it's late, I've had a tough game against Croatia and I should go to bed, and try to adress this with a clearer mind tomorrow.

But definitely a great topic, makes me think.
Jan. 25th, 2014 03:06 am (UTC)
I think it is a growing problem in many places, but I also think it is shortsighted to just apply more Band-Aid solutions, with promises to do more down the road when the economy is better.

I agree it is wrong when basic needs are being met by charities, the government has both a duty and a responsibility to meet those most, basic of needs.

Charities will always be needed, but they shouldn't be the front line aid.

I hope you won the game!

Jan. 26th, 2014 05:24 am (UTC)
Oh we won, the final is today so another nerve-wrecking evening ahead ;)

We had a similar thing done to our psychiatric patients, out of hospitals and into own homes, which definitely should be a good thing, trouble is that it was only made to save money, not help people, and the district psychiatry doesn't work as it should.

I do understand that money is limited, and some cuts are needed, but in my view, it's always the weakest paying. If you aren't strong and able to speak your case, then off you go.

I might live in the "posh neighborhood of Frederiksberg", but the drug center of the city is just around the corner, so we do get our share of addicts and mentally ill and homeless people. Also the shelters are having new problems with a new set of people using them, the bliss of EU brings professional beggars here from Eastern Europe.

It's actually really sad, that it's considered good business to move to another country to make money, collecting return bottles, selling the homeless paper and begging.

Also we have the ones walking around with a note asking for money for an operation for some kid, not valid in this country. And I hate that they take 'help' from the really needy.

I complain about my life (finances and kids never leaving), but I'm extremely gratefull that I have a home, a job and yeah everything I need for a comfortable life.

I could easily have lost everything, and it's scary to think, that if my height of addiction had been now and not 10-12 years ago, I probably would have.
Today I wouldn't be able to get a bank-loan if I lost my job, I wouldn't be able to get a new one and yeah makes me see my debt in a bit of perspective. I definitely got something from the money, too bad I'll use the rest of my life to pay back because the banks are poor ;)
But that's a different issue, I'm all for state-banks, because when the banks are threatened with going down, the state goes in and saves them. Why can't they make the money instead ;)

But back to poverty and homelessness, it shouldn't happen, but guess it's a question of priorities. And probably a great deal of national economics, that I don't understand.
Money makes the world go around.

Jan. 26th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
I hope the final went well, and that your nerves survived the night!

I think the ‘Back to the Community’ was done in a number of countries, some with great success, but there was good support in those cases. My friend AM in Scotland has an elder brother who, from birth, has been severely, both mentally and physically disabled. In his twenties it became too much for the family to deal with so he was placed in a facility. In the eighties it was decided to close the facility. AM was instrumental in setting the standards which had to be followed. Her brother now lives in a group home with three other men, and has never been so happy.

I think district psychiatry can work, but not where the client requires more than just a daily visit. Money is tight everywhere, but I agree it always seems that those who have less, and perhaps need it more, always seem to be the ones who are left behind.

I think the EU faces a different set of challenges, with so much freedom of movement between countries. While I understand the reason for some to move, it creates new problems for other countries. I’m not sure there is a good answer to that, given today’s economic climate. It is sad that some feel collecting bottles in another country, is better than life in their own.

Our homeless collect bottles and beg for money, and these are usually people born in the country….

In today’s world, it is all too easy to lose everything; many are only one paycheck away from that. I’m so glad you were able to do what you had to do, and got the help necessary when you needed it. We have friends who lost everything, house, savings, the lot. They’re doing fine now, but they never regained what they lost.

Our banks are not state owned, and getting loans when you have little is very hard. You either have to take the time to build up your credit rating, not easy if you little to nothing! Or have someone co-sign, again not always easy.

No, poverty and homelessness shouldn’t happen, but I guess where government is concerned, it is priorities, and over here, I’m hearing a great deal of talk, with not a lot of action.

Jan. 26th, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC)
The final went very well for France... :(

But no nervous breakdown, it was a major beating, so in a way easier on the nerves ;)

We have group homes here too, a great idea, most work just fine. But again I see people who should move to a facility with more care, not being moved and the reason is always money. But we did have a success story with one of our clients recently, so the system does work some times.

Jan. 28th, 2014 07:12 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you didn't win.:(

I think the ideal is to have the ability to place people in homes in whichever way works best for the individual.

Jan. 25th, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
hhhmmm I think my reply is better suited to an email than a comment.
As you know Ray is heavily involved in the social/welfare services of his church, and so much of what he does flows past my nose. I'm also constantly fielding our telephone while he's out and about helping desperadoes.

I'm very opinionated about issues like the homeless, as in how it relates to my own backyard.

are we all responsible on a personal level to help those who are homeless or living in poverty? I believe we are.

If every person who had the means to take a homeless family into their own home, or downsize their own home to help house another family, did so there wouldn't be any homeless.

In the early eighties our government in all its wisdom, decided to close the main psychiatric hospital, and initiate a ”Back To The Community” policy.

I don't think that going back to the old days of psychiatric hospitals is the answer. People with psychiatric illness won't take their medication, so is the solution to go back to the days where people were locked in psychiatric hospitals against their will for years after years and forcefully medicated.
The back to the community policy might not have been perfect but it was (IMO) more humane that was previously in place.

The second group who have been identified as homeless, are those who are addicted to either drugs or alcohol.

They don't have to be homeless in Perth. We have various organisation who provide housing/support for people addicted to drugs/alcohol. But there are conditions; no drugs or alcohol allowed on the premises and they have to undergo rehab to get off the drugs/alcohol.
Generally they decline; they don't want to get off the drugs/acohol they just want a pad of their own to crash in.
It's very, very hard to help people like that.

Maybe I'll e-mail you about all this.....and ramble on :)

Jan. 25th, 2014 03:40 am (UTC)
I've done some of what Ray does. For a number of years, I worked with a church group along the same lines.

I know it isn't easy, and I doubt there is any one solution.

You are right, if we all took in some of those who are homeless, it would solve the problem, but how many of us want to do that. At my stage in life I have to say, I likely wouldn't. When our two were teenagers, we had a number of their friends stay at times because of one reason or another. to do it now, I'm not so sure.

Totally agree, there is no way I want to see those big impersonal hospitals again, I did a stint in one during my training, that was enough. However, I do think better, and more group homes would work, where there is someone there to oversee that the residents have their needs met.

We have organizations who do try, but we just don't have enough social housing. I also know the problems with helping folk detox, and stay clean, it isn't an easy one. One of the problems here is, if you want to get clean there are never enough places to accommodate all who want it, so they have to wait, that rarely works well. By the time a space opens up, they are back on the drugs. I watched a documentary once where they showed some people would actually commit a Federal offence, simple because, in Federal prison, they would get treatment.

I know there are no easy answers to either homelessness or poverty, but it just seems so wrong that in country where so many have so much others have so very little.

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )