This article shows the way home...
Thursday May 14, 2015
Medicine Hat becomes the first city in Canada to eliminate Homelessness...
Mayor Ted Clugston admits that when the project began in 2009, when he was an alderman, he was an active opponent of the plan.
"I even said some dumb things like, 'Why should they have granite counter tops when I don't,'" he says. "However, I've come around to realize that this makes financial sense."
Clugston says that it costs about $20,000 a year to house someone. If they're on the street, it can cost up to $100,000 a year.
"This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people," he says.
"Housing First puts everything on its head. It used to be, 'You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues,'" Clugston says. "If you're addicted to drugs, it's going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you're sleeping under a park bench."
The strategy has worked. In Medicine Hat, emergency room visits and interactions with police have dropped. But there was one change that initially surprised Clugston — court appearances went up.
"They end up dealing with their past, atoning for their sins," he says.
Clugston believes that no one on the streets is unreachable.
He says city staff found housing for one man, but he insisted on leaving to sleep under cars. Day after day, they'd search him out and take him back to his new home.
"They did it 75 times, but they had the patience and they didn't give up on him and, eventually, he ended up staying in the house," he says. "Ultimately, people do want a roof over their heads."
"Years ago we'd have people living in the shelter for years, now it's measured in days and weeks."
Medicine Hat mayor doesn't take credit...
"I wasn't even on board when I was first elected," Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston told CBC.
"It was, 'You're going to end Homelessness? Yeah, whatever. You're going to end poverty? Yeah, whatever. What, world peace?' It was these elusive goals that everybody wants to do, but can never do."
The success of the project in his city surprised him as much as anyone.
"They call me the mayor that ended Homelessness, but really I have to be the mayor of the city that ended Homelessness," he said.
"I didn't do it."
Initiative saves taxpayers money...!!!
The Homelessness strategy in the city has meant associated declining costs in terms of crime and health care, as well as child welfare services. That's the aspect that really sold Clugston on the project, the idea that he could save taxpayers money by supporting this initiative.
His job now is to advocate for the success of the program across the province, country and globe.
"I can ignore Homelessness in Toronto or Vancouver, but if I have to step over someone on my way to work in my own backyard, you really can't turn a blind eye to that. That's what I try to talk about, a community solution," Clugston said.
He calls on provinces and Ottawa to provide the funding, but then to allow municipalities to implement strategies that makes the most sense wherever they're at.
"What I discovered [in talking about this elsewhere] is that there is basically an aching, burning need around the world to solve this problem."
Alcoholic? Here’s a one-bedroom apartment where you can live — even if you’re still drinking. Drug addict? Here’s a studio with heat and hot water — even if you’re still getting high. Mentally ill? Here’s a place to feel safe and call your own — and where caseworkers can find you.
The theory is that only after people are in stable housing can they begin to address their other challenges.
The strategy has been widely adopted in Europe and Australia. In the United States, it has found its most striking success in reducing Homelessness among military veterans in cities like New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. But no country has embraced the approach as firmly as Canada.
The results were startling, validating the housing first model and showing that the cost of housing the homeless was far less than the cost of the emergency services needed by the homeless while they were living on the street.
“The reduction in days in jail alone pays for the program,” said Jaime Rogers, a Medicine Hat housing official. She cited studies that said the average homeless person costs taxpayers 120,000 Canadian dollars a year, or $91,600, in services, while it costs just 18,000 Canadian dollars a year, or $13,740, to house someone and provide the necessary retention support.
That kind of evidence persuaded the conservative government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pursue housing first as a national policy.
Medicine Hat leapt ahead, in part, because the problem is more manageable here. It is easier to deal with Homelessness in a town of 63,000, where social workers know the names of almost everyone who is down and out. It is also easier when members from the agencies working on the problem are so few that they can sit down around a table.
But Medicine Hat has another advantage that could point the way for other cities: a centralized office that manages both housing stock and support programs. The Homeless and Housing Development Department of the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society is led by Ms. Rogers.
Recognizing that some people will always lose their homes, and with no national consensus of what “ending Homelessness” means, Ms. Rogers and her team came up with their own definition: In Medicine Hat, it means connecting anyone identified as homeless with a caseworker and putting him or her on a waiting list for a housing program within 10 days.
That turned out to be a stroke of public relations genius, because when they reached their goal, word that Medicine Hat had “ended Homelessness” ricocheted from Argentina to Germany to Japan. The once-skeptical mayor, whose office plays only a marginal role in the plan, has since given as many as 200 interviews on the subject to news media from all over the world.
Ms. Rogers said it cost less in the long run if the process was slow and deliberate because the goal is to house people permanently rather than rush them to unsuitable housing and have them return to the street.
“Cities with tight housing markets need a very substantial amount of work, both in terms of front-line staff and organizational leadership, put toward recruiting landlords and even rehabbing buildings,” Dr. Kertesz said by email. “It means a major organizational undertaking with all pistons firing.”
The stability of a home allows people to gradually address their problems, and eventually contribute to society...
If we do this, Eureka would be a model for other cities across the country to finally solve this problem in a safe and humane way, and the city would save literally $Millions over time, and actually generate profit for the city by taking care of our homeless population...
To NOT do this would be foolish...
The old K-mart property is a perfect place to help people in need, under one roof, where they are not being forced to go all over town on a truly shity bus service just to try and stay alive...!!!
Put all government offices that can help our Homeless right there on the property in the building to serve the public where they are now, and put Betty's shelters, and Brian's Rescue Mission right there where the people are, and take the old "Homeless Shelters" and turn them into government offices so that all government is in Old Town where people dress nice to go to work and in turn class-up the image of Old Town so when visitors come to our town, they don't see Homelessness and drug use on the streets, but well dressed and friendly people to greet them to our great town where we take care of our people, and are proud to do so and tell the world how to handle this problem correctly once and for all...
The money that would be saved would pay for the program alone, and the city would have a State-of-the-Art facility generating no less than $110,000 per year in profit from 0.85 Mega-Watts of Solar Power Generation to improve the city even more, which makes EVERYBODY happy again...
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. —Anne Frank"
Join the conversation at "Temporary Town" on Facebook...