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Homelessness

Globe and Mail Update

Mark Hume took questions on his five-part series ...Read the full article

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  1. D G from Vancouver, Canada writes: It is so very sad that there is prejudice against the typical homeless person. He/she is not lazy, unwilling to look for work, but thre is a very good chance that he/she suffers from mental illness.

    It is appealling that in this very rich country of ours that we do not look after those born with chemical imbalances, and other causes of mental illnesses. Life is tough for all, and especially for those with 'weakened' coping skills.

    Ever since I was a child, I have said a prayer for all the homeless, regardless of species (all animals whether human or animals), and look forward to the day when we can say with pride that all in this world have shelter, food and dignity. Thank you for looking into the homeless issues.
  2. Proud Canadian from United States writes: I thought the latest homeless survey only found 5,000 people actually live on the streets. If you ask me that's not too bad for a country with a population of 30 million. The governement should focus our scarce resources on something that affects more Canadians.
  3. stephen dale from toronto, Canada writes: Hi I am in my middle 50s have lived outside for over 2 years over a lifetime mostly in the 60s or 70s but also one time after a serious car accident no payout by insurance for 2 1/2 years my savings ran out. I have never used a shelter or foodbank. I have been emaciated 2 times (after the car accident) and had scurvey before. A couple of times I had to open cars with a coat hanger to avoid freezing. I have also been homeless while working full time. Most times it was due to unexpected dollars emergency. In the 70s the street was not as dangerous and eating could be done for $1.50 per day. Today especially for the kids your fate is a hell.I know enough about the street to know there are those too many that profit or just waste from it. And those that go beyond the cause. eg Salvation Army. Society spends big yet a hand up with a job apartment were are will always be talking points and very little reality. Once you look street people do not want to give you a chance.
  4. 1938371 1938371 from Vancouver, Canada writes: Homelessness is everywhere but nowhere is it more evident than in mild climates like Vancouver. Would you rather sleep in a shelter with violence, stink and bedbugs or would you rather sleep wrapped in a blanket against a storefront? Bureaucrats argue over the size of appropriate accommodation for the poor and the homeless when nothing is more important than a safe and secure dwelling. Sadly, 250 sq. ft. is a generous dwelling for the homeless but most minimum wage people can't afford to rent or buy such accommodation and giving it to the homeless for free is economic treason.
  5. Alexis LaFontaine from Calgary, Canada writes: For two years I lived on the streets and had the unique opportunity to grace Vancouver's East Side.
    I arrived with no addictions or criminal involvment.
    I struggled to stay warm and safe as the shelters were often full. I found that as a female there were even less options for shelter than the men had. I felt desperate and discouraged. As a teen, I had left home and never had learned how to secure and maintain employment.
    One day, after enjoying a free breakfast at a church, I observed firsthand the ravages of crack. A woman in her thirties, whose face showed only traces of her former beauty, sat strategizing with friends about where the next fix was coming from.
    I wil always be grateful for the young woman with her, who piped up when she noticed me staring.
    She said, 'Get out of here while you can . I came to Vancouver as the daughter of a white collar family. I tried a hit from a homemade bong; I thought it was pot. There was crack in it, and I've done it ever since. '
    Eventually I listened.
    I found my way back to my family, to familiar support, and two years later have a home, a job, and am enrolled in College.
    I still feels scared when I'm walking in the cold sometimes, remembering the sheer desperation of having nowhere to go.
    Thank God for angels.
  6. Pat Finan from Vancouver, Canada writes: A recent US doumentary, profiled on Oprah, was based on a US homeless man who was given $100,000 US plus access to a financial advisor, psychological counselling, a job(!!) and other resources. He chose not to take advantage of the resources offered by the producers. In summary, he got married and divorced, and gave away or spent ALL of the money and was homeless AGAIN. He was interviewed by Oprah and said he has problems with authority figures and feels he was meant to be homeless. He actually enjoyed his homeless activity of picking up cans for recycling. In summary, the demons that make some people homeless have no easy solutions. In some cases there are no solutions at all.
  7. Louis Pacella from Canada writes: Concluding that homelessness is caused in large part by governments is hitting the same note and self-serving. The 'blame the government' note is nothing but a quick dismissal of the problem so that we can elude and evade the tragic reality; refuse meaning to homelessness. It allows us not to look in the mirror. Our apathy causes homelessness, our greed, our individual impotence, our heads in the sand, the growing inability to feel for one another. More and more our society is becoming 'brutish,' all trying to screw each other, where the individual always feels ripped off. How can we recognize a 'homeless person' or a 'street person ' when we ourselves are Ford man, Blue man, and so on. To be sure all that, in itself, does not create homelessness, but creates a society where the constant impulses generated by such an existence creates selfishness and 'I'm OK Jack' mindset. And even though we got double garages, barbecues and pools we go in a rage when money is spent for the homeless and poor. When we say the government causes homelessness we say it's our fault. Of course generosity still exists, but less and less.
  8. Michael Peters from Toronto, Canada writes: For good or bad, we live in a country where individual rights trump the 'collective good', which makes it next to impossible to do anything about the homeless. Society is truely in a catch 22. Most people who are homeless suffer from mental illness and/or drug addiction and because we are such a 'compassionate' society, we afford everyone the right to ruin their lives as they see fit. I read the sad story of Mr. McAllister, and I cringe when the author suggests that 'the system failed him'. To some extent this may be true, but no one failed Mr. McAllister than Mr. McAllister. We all have choices in life, & Mr. McAllister made the wrong ones, time and time again. There are many like him who have some desire to get off the streets, and there are even more who just don't give a damn. What do you do with individuals who flat out refuse the help and assistence they are offered? Since forcing them into treatment would run counter to their charter rights, we're left with the problem we have in Vancouver. The solution? Well, more feel-good programs and projects at taxpayers' expense, of course.
  9. Ground Working from Calgary, Canada writes: I don't think there's any question that homeless people are generally suffering from some sort of mental illness, including chemical dependency of some kind. I think these people fall through the political cracks: the right doesn't want to pay for them, and the left thinks they're doing the right thing by giving the mentally ill the 'freedom' to live on the streets. The solution is nowhere near as simple as 'more money,' though that is definitely one part of solution. These people should be forced into high quality treatment facilities of some kind to get the help they need to recover and make reasonable decisions on their own. Letting them suffer outside in the cold with their mental illnesses or their chemical dependencies is not a 'liberal' solution, it's a foolish one. And no, people do not have any kind of 'right' to starve on the streets, nor do we have any kind of 'right' to let them do so.
  10. Alex MacLean from Toronto, Canada writes: Mr. Pacella is right on the money. The government is, after all, our construction. Pointing the finger at them allows us to avoid taking personal responsibility for the state of society and the eroding social contract. Carving out a position of power in the economy is the only indicator of worth we can recognize. By this standard, the elderly can be warehoused, the disabled hidden, the mentally ill shunned. Productivity, which is reduced to the economic meaning of that rather broader term, is the high god of markets. That value system is destroying our society and our planet, and needs to change. Now.
  11. Lucy Francis from Canada writes: Escuse me, people are naive if they think that this is isolated to only a few people. There are probably a 3 or 4 times that number that are on the verge of becoming homeless in any given city or town.
    You do not have to go far or you will see it on Oprah. Remember the lady that lived in a small apartment with 4 - 5 children and she was working three jobs to maintain that little apartment. Just where do you think these hard-working people end up? Wake up and smell the coffee because you can!!! Ignorance must be bliss for the rightous?
  12. Island Girl from Victoria, Canada writes: Just a suggestion for the women who asked about giving money to the homeless or the shelter. My husband and I donate food to the homeless on the street instead of giving them money. Usually there is a person or two outside our grocery store who are panhandling and we take a bit of food to them after we finish shopping. Most are extremely appreciative. However I did have one instance where a man wouldn't take the food and insisted he wanted money for 'coffee'.
    We can't just blame the government. While they are partly responsible as they funnel our tax dollars to programs that target the homeless and mental illness, it is also a social responsibility. Rather than walking past homeless people and acting like they are not there, at least let them know that you see them and recognize them as a human being.
  13. Steph C from Ottawa, Canada writes: It's true that most homeless people suffer from one or more mental disorders. What many of you don't seem to understand, however, is that effective medications cost hundreds of dollars per month and only work if taken regularly over a long period of time. In addition, few people are lucky enough to be diagnosed and treated properly on the first try; it usually takes a few more attempts before succeeding in finding the proper combination of medication and one-on-one therapy for each individual. The federal government must do is follow up on the Senate Committee on Social Affairs' recommendation to establish the new Canadian Mental Health Association, which will develop and implement a national strategy on mental health, mental illness and addictions.
  14. Linda Glover from Canada writes: First off....thank you, Mark, for the fabululous, eye opening series. Homelessness and poverty are a desperate situation in this country, and I am often baffled that our government can spend billions of foreign aid, yet can't take care of it's own. I'd like to respond to Helene Robertson's question regarding passing homeless people on the streets and not having any money to give. I volunteer two days a week at a drop in centre for the homeless. It's one of the few places in the world of those who visit it where they are treated with dignity, respect and without judgement. Helene...the gift you can give in treating these people like any other human your life, by learning their name and greeting them with it, sharing a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, a few minutes of your time for a conversation, is worth as much, or more, as your loonie or toonie would be. I think that for all of us, if we were to remember that these people are all someone's mother, father, son or daughter, and that in a chain of misfortune could be us, we would be inspired to view their situations differently and demand change. This is, of course, a very simplistic view, but it's a start. And something we can all do. Everyone needs affirmation that they are of value to someone else, to society in general. It's what drives us to continue on and better ourselves. The next time you pass by a homeless person and feel guilty that you have no money to give, stop for a moment, look them in the eye and start with hello. That moment of dignity will be carried with them all day...and you may very well have made a difference in their life. Sounds somewhat inane...but I guarantee you'll both be better off for it.

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