It’s ‘Housing First,’ addiction issues after, says Fourcast

It’s ‘Housing First,’ addiction issues after, says Fourcast

in Community/Health/Municipal/Poverty Reduction by

Twenty-four chronically homeless people in our area now have a home, thanks to the City of Kawartha Lakes and and Kawartha Lakes Housing Corporation. But since many of them are struggling with addictions, hundreds of readers recently questioned on social media whether they were deserving of accommodation.

The story, ‘New housing complex should be for rehab, not ‘condoning drugs’: Woman’s petition,’ was read by thousands with the majority of readers on social media holding the opinion that these 24 people should be ‘clean’ first before being given the keys to a brand new one bedroom apartment.

The new building at 68 Lindsay Street North is part Human Services Offices on one side (employees will begin working there in mid-September) and the other half are the 24 units for the chronically homeless on the other side. Fourcast, a community based treatment centre, have staff on site to be there for the residents if they choose to reach out for help. But it is not mandatory. 

The ‘Housing First’ approach has been adopted across much of Canada and the United States as a way to end homelessness – including its devastating costs. On the Canadian Housing First site, the goal is clear: “The goal of Housing First is to end chronic homelessness by providing immediate housing and then working with participants to promote recovery and wellbeing.”

It’s an approach that makes sense, according to Fourcast’s Executive Director Donna Rogers, who says it is “virtually impossible” to change one’s addiction behaviours without first having the stability of housing. It’s also backed up by mounds of international data.

Expecting a person to be clean first, says Rogers, “assumes that change is linear and that a person attends residential treatment and returns to safe-affordable housing and that is the answer for permanent recovery from substance use.”

That’s just not the case, she says.

“Housing First (philosophy) believes that access to safe-affordable housing is a right for all people. If persons with substance use concerns want to make change they need to have access to housing without having to ‘earn it.’” she says.

Rogers says most people make changes to their substance use challenges without ever attending residential treatment.

“There is a need for more access to residential treatment but that’s a separate issue from homelessness. Treatment involves insight oriented therapy and lifestyle behavioural changes that are virtually impossible to engage in if there is a current experience of homelessness.”

The program at 68 Lindsay Street involves supports for people to maintain housing as well as connect them to community supports that will help them in other important ways, such as physicians, psychiatrists, income support, addiction and mental health supports (including residential treatment if they choose).

“The new building has chosen to house those who have the most complex homelessness history,” says Rogers, “so the supports that are in place are intensive to meet those needs.”

“In other housing models with a first come, first serve approach this group of people would never be successful in acquiring housing.”

In the research paper A New Direction: A Framework for Homeless Prevention, Stephen Gaetz and Erin Dej point out that “mass homelessness emerged in the mid-1980s,” and since then society has “largely used emergency services to respond to people’s immediate needs.”

(The mid 1980’s was the ascension of neoliberal policies in which an extreme form of capitalism emerged — and still remains. Corporations became more concerned with shareholder returns and CEO remuneration and less concerned with creating a stable employment environment, good paying jobs, and community development. This created an erosion of income security and of purchasing power for average Canadians.)

“While we will always need emergency services to help those in crisis, over time these short-term responses have become the standard method for managing homelessness long-term,” they write.

In the last decade, Canadian policies and practices have begun to shift from managing homelessness to finding solutions, they point out, in particular with the expansion of the Housing First approach across the country.

“The Housing First model provides housing and supports for people experiencing chronic homelessness with no housing readiness requirements. New research, innovation, and best practices have propelled our thinking to make the goal of ending homelessness realistic; however, we are still missing an important piece – preventing homelessness in the first place.”

The cost of one night of homelessness at A Place Called Home — the homeless shelter for Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton — is $62.62 a night, according to Dave Tilley, manager of fund development and operations at A Place Called Home in Lindsay. If someone spends the night at a hospital, the average stay costs about $500 on the citizens’ dime.

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

8 Comments

  1. Cause there’s no one in our society more deserving of our generousity than drug addicts. Screw the seniors , single moms , veterans, the handicapped who are living miserable lives and struggling to buy food and clothing…the addicts are the sacred ones who get the help. The lefty attitude that no one matters more than the people who CHOOSE a certain lifestyle will come back to bite them.

  2. I just don’t understand this philosophy! I have a son suffering with Schizophrenia. Has been homeless since May 2019. People using heavy drugs have shelter but he doesn’t! He’s been on a Wait List for over 2 years with Housing Authority. He was living in Harrison House prior to being homeless. When his 2 year lease ran out in May, Canadian Mental Health booted him until the streets. How a Mental Health has detoriated drastically trying the live in the streets with psychosis. Is being a drug addict what qualifies one to have a place to live?

    • Jim, that is a very uninformed statement to make.

      We write about seniors’ issues frequently and were the first media outlet to break the story: ‘Seniors in crisis in Kawartha Lakes: Group calls on Mayor, MPP to help fill in the gaps’

      This led to discussion that has sparked a pilot project with paramedic services starting this fall to catch seniors falling through the cracks of the system.

      We’ve also rallied to save our hospital from being merged with Peterborough’s hospital, certainly a net benefit to seniors as well as the whole community.

      In this story, above, we simply contacted Fourcast for their side of the story, given they were not a part of the first article we did on this issue.

      Let’s also not pretend that working to end homelessness is somehow connected to not doing more for seniors. Of course we should be doing more for seniors — something we’ve stated many times. We need the political will to get much more done to fix all the errors in our social policy.

  3. There is no mention of the costs of building these 24 new apartments or the subsequent costs in maintaining them.. Is it any more cost effective than housing them in shelters? And as mentioned in the article, corporations are indirectly responsible for the current economic climate so it seems ludicrous that our governments continue to give them tax breaks. If they were to pay their share of taxes like the rest of us, this would go a long way to easing the economic overload and could be used to help more homeless people and drug addicts get back on their feet. I am not sure that this current solution is working to achieve that goal.

    • Dave, the costs of homelessness are definitely higher. Here’s a reminder from the first story we did on this issue, which helps break this down:

      The costs

      Just what is the cost of homelessness to society? Out of the few thousand people collecting basic income for a short time in Ontario, eight per cent were homeless in the past 12 months, prior to collecting the benefit. They were homeless an average more than 120 nights a year, according to the baseline survey.

      The cost of one night of homelessness at A Place Called Home (and probably similar places in Thunder Bay, Hamilton, or elsewhere) is $62.62 a night, according to Dave Tilley, manager of fund development and operations at A Place Called Home in Lindsay.

      One person multiplied by 120 nights at the homeless shelter is $7,514. And eight per cent of the 6,500 people who were involved in the basic income pilot in some way is 520 people.

      That’s $3,907,280 a year – for just 520 people.

      If any of those nights had been spent in a hospital, the average stay costs about $500 on the citizens’ dime.

  4. Many people work hard to have a home ..there only problem is minimum wage makes it hard and they are not being offered a new home..paid utilities..benefits..a cheque to help out.why not???these people are sick they need to have gone through rehab and earned their way.seriously for educated people it’s pretty uneducated thinking to say this is the answer I dont care what your statistics in your office say..reality tells it all.

  5. Just watched a video posted on Sept 9th regarding the damage costs that have taken place at 68 Lindsay St N. $3-4,000 damage and they say the person or persons responsible will be paying the costs? That damage is in the first month alone. More damage has accumulated since! How is that going to happen when they live on welfare or disability cheques? Would love an answer for that!

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