Cold Reality of the Truly Homeless

Homelessness in York Region should be no surprise.

As the local newspapers focus headlines throughout the winter through feel-good pieces aimed at propping up our social network assist vehicles - instead of dissecting what we could be doing better - it seems in keeping with York Region politicians.

It's no secret that Y.R. has had not only a shortage of government assisted housing units for those in need for many years, as highlighted in the 21010 York Region Social Audit Behind The Masks which was presented to Council in deposition, and which they supported in principle and then used / sent to the Ontario government towards helping them formulate a plan to coordinate funding and services for this area but it has also had one of the lowest owned units-to rental units ratios in the entire country, as well availability rates - also country-wide close to worst. So it's no secret. See the Social Audit Video.

In the download of $ and services to the municipalities from the Ontario government, the Region took away certain safe-guard initiatives designed (that are / were part of The ACT) to help individuals in need avoid becoming homeless and those just out of prison or institutions. It was called the Start Up Fund used to help residents avoid eviction or 1st and last to obtain a place to live and could be applied for no more than once every three years. It's no longer available through the municipalities take over, and its replacement deemed unattainable by former user types, so those same people now are more likely to go homeless. At the time when the download of services was still in proposal mode, I specifically mentioned this safety net program to Y.R. Councillor John Taylor who assured me all would be kept. It wasn't. Notice a crime spike of late? It's no coincidence.

Not going to say I told you so. But I did.

Instead, the Region seems to think putting everything into shelters has been the answer - spending more than 10 years focusing all available funding - over $10,000,000 - towards building one women's shelter, Belinda's Place, as well as some assisted temporary housing for the same single women only category. Problem is / was, most of Y.R.'s homeless are men, a fact I have long crowed, but now have tangible proof of, from the just released stats collected by United Way Toronto / York Region..

This week's Era Banner headlines scream out Shelter use up 50%...crisis levels..blah,blah,blah but are they not aware the one and only full time men's shelter Leeder Place - is full 100% of the time? That's not a story? Only in winter I guess when its sexy to write about it and INNs from The Cold gets their overflow. Thank goodness for them at least.

Cold Warning in effect

Yesterday, I came across a struggling guy, one who fights addiction issues but one who also works and works hard. I know, because I worked several jobs on which he was hired to assist, and in seeing his willingness to do a great job, I've since assisted him into something more regular, including the last one he's held for 6 months now. But they just don't have the hours for him come January and there he was, last night, out in the bitter cold begging for money.

Knowing I have a video taping upcoming this month for which I've budgeted in a P.A. I gave him $20 advance and told him I'd be in touch about the exact date. "But no more tonight eh? Go home." I said. He thanked me and did just that. He and his girlfriend struggle to keep a roof over their head. They could also benefit from nonexistent rehab programs to assist towards living a "normal" life.

YOURK news covered MPP's start-up
Ironically I 've been trying to find an operator group for a housing or rehab complex of 18 self- contained, up-to-code units, yet no incentives enough seem to exist to entice operators to run anything. So why can't YR controlled funds go here?

A longtime trailer dweller asked me,

" What are they doing with the $16 million dollars the federal government gave to assist with these issues?"

Good question.

Markham Community Centre

Forest, right here, long time homeless camp
So where IS all this new money going in assisting those in need and those who want to live outside the dangerous and undignified shelter system? I don't know, but it's not getting to those most in need and this to me seems an abuse of process.
Hey, I gave you resources!
The recent York Region Media articles have headlined cherry-picked themes taken from a report by United Way Toronto/Y.R., like the obvious such as aboriginals having a higher than average ratio - as it is in the rest of the country - and they've headlined children, family and youth poverty, but they've actually left out the most staggering headline stat of all that a full 100% of the homeless they found with no attachments to any shelter of any kind in York Region were male. 100%. They further found that 70% of all shelter dwellers were male.

Now I'm not going to come out and say that our social safety-net system seems sexist but...well actually I am, and it is. We have no shelters for males to escape abuse even though stats show spousal abuse is about 50-50, yet we have a number of shelters for women in this regard, in addition to the family shelter and single women's shelter and transitional temporary housing. There is no temporary housing for any single men. Men are last on lists for Y.R. housing too since abuse victims and families - often single moms - also rate ahead of them, regardless of the fact there are extremely few single assisted housing units to begin with in York Region, so vulnerable men often have little chance to get housed, and these men will statistically die much younger than the average person - often by two decades.

So that is what WE are supporting with our current system. We're sentencing men to an early death.

The social audit was clear back in 2010 that the lack of housing was already critical and that men were not only lacking in programs and housing but in how they were being treated and that has still had no change.

We need more male social workers according to some men mired in the system.

"Women don't understand what a mans goes through", said one 

"They hire women right out of battered women's shelters and they don't treat us good."

Former Shelter Dweller, now deceased. See his and other video testimonials here.

I've written in the past of several men who have died while living on the streets or couches in YR after years in the shelter system and yet not a word from the local media. Shame on them, but shame on us for doing nothing while men die. That would soon include our now area Housing Minister Chris Ballard who did not invite myself nor P.A.C.C, Y.R.'s voice for poverty, to participate in any reforms nor for consulting, since his quick promotion from regular M.P.P.. 

" House of Hope" sits empty begging for use.

I'll give the provincials this much, they have the "cahoonahs" to study a fixed basic minimum income model  and as I see it, this type of system may help stop those who often fall through the cracks to better survive in cold Canada. I guess we'll see.

Tom Pearson

PACC - Character Matters

Hoorah! Watch what kind of Citizens we're making here!

PACC has been a tireless advocate for the disabled
Character Matters is supposed to celebrate character and I have no doubt past recipients in its short history have been good people, but I'm sure just as many who were deserving have never been even considered to receive one. That's fine, we can't hand them out to everyone, but. inevitably they become political, and why I hate awards of any kind.

Spokes-head Steve Hinder, as I understand, one of the originators of Character Matters, having come on the scene via Belinda Stronach as her assistant when our M.P. in the area, had requested a meeting with me in 2006, after appearing on CBC live to Canada criticizing Stronach for concentrating on the world's impoverished when we had a record 50,000 people using food banks right in York.

"At first I thought you were just a disgruntled hockey dad, but you're not" I recall him saying. 

I had wanted to use the meet opportunity to get him to influence Magna and Neighbourhood Network, which was just starting up, to become a part or sponsors of of our Friendly Neighbourhood Youth Road Hockey Challenge as I'd been involved in a community development project (this is when I was approached to Chair Poverty Action for Change Coalition by various YR agencies) from which I'd learned of many issues that seemed appalling to me including kids having nothing and was why I / we organized York Region's first ever demonstration about poverty on the front lawn of the regional building.

11 years after - Had to tell these kids no tourney in 2015
I'd explained that our event started as a way to engage the local youth and bridge them to the broader community through road hockey as the tourney allowed all kids to form neighbourhood teams and compete against each other on neutral turf and taught newcomers a Canadian tradition and helped them adjust and form friendships. This also gave the kids much needed esteem boosts as it connected them to the broader community and showed they could compete with anyone which enabled us to have a direct influence upon some kids who might coming from a home life in turmoil.

I recall one kid, about 10, he came from a home where the parent was addicted to crack. I think it was the second year of the road hockey event, at that time still held inside Mulock Village a mixed income neighbourhood, and it was particularly cold and snowy that year - a ref quit mid game, players complained and the vibe, at least to me, was all too serious as the emphasis was supposed to be on fun. At the end, as I pondered ever doing it again as no one seemed to be having fun, and as I walked over to the local cafe where I had entertainment and PACC had free hot meals set up for the kids and trophy ceremony, this kid walked up to me and said,

"You know that was the most fun I've ever had".... That blew me away."

PACC has organized a voice for poverty 10 years also
From these experiences, I helped form and chaired for four years Operation Sparrow (now Newmarket Cares) which allocated and transported kids into after-school activity programs free alongside the other kids. I made sure it was designed to eliminate stigma and embarrassment for the parents as well, but left when they seemed to be ok with a board member coming back on board only before the election. Character.

Int Day to Eradicate Poverty gives poverty a voice
Getting back to my meeting with then M.P.'s assistant Steve Hinder. I explained to Steve about the road hockey 'program", why it was started and included that the murder of Mulock resident Mike Thornhill outside a local donut shop, had motivated me to start the Mike Thornhill Award $ for youths showing leadership in the community and not the best hockey player. I explained the whole 9 yards. My ask to him was simple as I explained that the way the tourney best worked was through challenges - as kids we'd challenge another team to play - and that I'd love to get an Aurora team in it. To maybe challenge the town to form a team to play Mulock. I mentioned that with " Neighbourhood Network" being in Aurora it would seem a natural attachment to the Friendly Neighbourhood Road Hockey Challenge and maybe Magna corporation (Stronach's company) could even sponsor?

"A challenge. What a great idea!" I recall him exclaiming.

PACC hosts neighbourhood BBQ bringing in talent
Great, I thought, finally we can take this thing to the level it should be at! But, unfortunately, as I found out later, that eureka moment was not for me as to my surprise Stronach (Hinder)  had become somehow part of promoting the local hockey teams, and announced within a month or so, "The Challenge on Yonge St", then the "Battle of Yonge", between the rivaling Jr A teams. They'd offered us free tickets for some kids. Could they have simply taken my idea!? N.N. promoted our event not one iota, making no response to our requests about it. I think I did manage to wangle a $50 program ad from Magna the one year and that was it. We never made on any short list for the Hoe-down funds either. I believe their challenge match continues to this day

Fast forward 2016, N.N. hosted a "collaboration" for community groups. As you can imagine, I didn't attend...That buzz phrase is long gone passe anyhow, and they should concentrate on what it is they actually do - knowing a disabled person who suffered the entire winter without a 'volunteer" from them assigned to help shovel his driveway, despite being semi-assisted the previous year - after their volunteer quit. They claim 6,000 volunteers yet not once could do his driveway in 2015-16 winter, so, in my opinion, they shouldn't be hosting anything until that's in order. That is their mandate, not hosting "collaborations". That would be my thought if I were its CEO or Chair.

PACC creates opportunities for youth to participate
A few years after N.N., Character Matters was started which Hinder somehow was a part of its originating panel and announced they would be handing out " Character Awards"..Hmmm.

The kicker for me was when they launched their "Character Matters after-school ball hockey program so "new Canadians could learn a Canadian tradition while...." almost identical to our description of our program. You get the picture? Who's going to fund us when a similar program runs? All coincidences of course.

Suddenly he was a local superstar,
suddenly began showing up on various boards, and somehow the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, even though N.N. was based in Aurora, and on a hospital board which was recently disbanded when its membership all quit for unreported reasons among others.

In between, in my role as Chair of PACC, I unfortunately had had to point out political and operational / agency short comings as the squeaky wheel, none of which was personal, but all of which had seemed to be taken so - quietly kept off boards of directors such as the Blue Door Shelters with a member telling me he thought I was a natural fit but that was told when he suggested me " Not yet" by a former mayor who's son became a local politician and who was also part of Neighbourhood Network's board as well as the shelters'. Maybe sonny will put in a good word!

During that time I'd naively started the "Square Table on Poverty" which included politicians from every level - another YR first - but which was marred by lack of attendance by Belinda Stronach (attending but one monthly meeting in a year) as attendees interest waned. Walking across the floor politically put a fork in it, with then M.P.P. Frank Klees, already a reluctant participant, no longer interested to follow up the initiatives we'd started, such as a recycling pick-up program at restaurants, an initiative brought to the panel through a person in a wheelchair who'd noticed a trend of places tossing bottles with $ value. Character.

We also organized Y.R.'s largest collaboration of its kind in history, York Region's social audit with "Behind the Masks", the resulting report critiquing the local services and shelters in things like how they treated people using them among other sensitive findings. I also assisted developing two feature stories that I provided not only info for, but connected the writer to those who were in poverty for which the paper won prestigious awards - twice - the last one about a homeless father and son eliciting more reaction to any story in recent history, YRMG Writer Chris Traber had told me. I wasn't invited to those awards nor received any credit nor even was offered a thank-you. Oh blogs and video series on the two also went hand in hand with those stories and continue to educate and inform today. And that is supposed to be the goal.

PACC put homeless to work renovating a home for mental health patients
I couldn't understand why I couldn't seem to get the schools on board with promoting our free tourney, but now it makes sense.

Next up we seemed to lose support for the event from the town, with road blocks seemingly being placed to the point we had to move the location 4 or 5 times with participants and sponsors showing up at the wrong location at times over it. Suddenly we could not play in the area were told we would, but instead now to a parking lot, and told we needed rental fencing at a $1500 cost even though Councilor Sponga  had pitched this new Riverwalk Commons to me before built to support it, had said we'd still be able to play there still, when I voiced concern about losing our location if built - which we did...but he did pay for the fencing. Then the Mayor's Charity dropped us, as well a Main St business, who had a politically loyal owner who had once told me she would support it as long as we held it. That was another $1000 gone right there.

The original team members who started it all
We went from playing on Main St, and on page 3 of the Toronto Sun for having such a great town for putting road hockey on Main, to a back parking lot, not even road hockey anymore, which to a theme guy, is devastating. Until then we'd always had an element of it on an actual road. Meantime, traveling the province, I'd passionately pushed the virtues of the road hockey program, expressing a wish to see it go national only to watch as others started their own including in Oakville on its Main St.,and the hospital fundraiser starting up that morphed into an across Canada event with a big sponsor / organizer taking it over...Great idea! But it was ours first and we started first - and no one can take that way.

Main St - only one year road hockey event played on it so far
So I began seeking out other new sponsors ( Neither Tim Horton's nor Canadian Tire ever responded to any previous attempts, but C.T. instead started their own Jumpstart ball hockey program now with Sportcheck who had been OUR sponsor, while the local Tim's never saw fit to help the tourney and award that kept a memory alive of a youth tragically killed on their property), with 2013 only being pulled off because I donated my entire winnings of $2500 for producing the winning one minute ad spot in an across-Canada contest for the Canadian Labour Congress with, One Pay Check Away, to PACC, which helped until we lost our main sponsor only weeks before the event launch in 2014, apparently because the previous year they'd not been able to find what location we'd been moved to at the last minute (we'd been allowed access to RiverWalk Common's stage area for cars and booths and mini-kiddy games previously but they decided no). We still held it, but we were limping, and the lack of coverage was  hurtful, but I was resourceful enough online to make it still happen. Barely. With no money, and admittedly tired, 2015 saw the first year in 11 that it wasn't held. By 2016 and with no media coverage - YRMG never even printed a word about ours from our press release to announcing it, I'm about ready to admit defeat...I guess I have no character.

I was nominated one year for a Character Award and attended only to appease my nominee as I find the whole idea of awards choice processes deplorable, like most any awards. For Our Mike Thornhill "Character Award", we simply drew the winner from the all deserved nominees on our list (each team could nominate a player) and that was our winner. Predictably I didn't win that night, as saving a cat in Georgina or something was deemed more important than saving lives I guess. And yet it seems people getting paid  to do a job get a nomination or win awards... for doing a job they were paid for. Mr Hinder got an award... for his community commitment I suppose. I don't know.

Belindas Place finished but don't expect to find her there
As I stood in line that night, I saw a "Character Matters "nominee I hadn't seen in some time. Ten + years previous I'd been involved with him in a partnership for an comedy show and after I'd spent months writing games for the show, producing, and arranging for it to become a cable TV show over two seasons, including having the station tape it live, at their cost and then designing a program course to be taken into schools, he made a dirty play to try and be rid of me using a frivolous reason. After some thought & anger, I just decided to let it go. As a struggling single dad fresh out of returning to film school at the time, it was devastating to lose that much investment, however some egos are better left to their own devises was my thought. But not before he'd revealed having once been the first person in Canada ever charged with internet stalking of a minor (called it an ex). He'd then held improv classes at area schools for years afterwards, and I assume why he was nominated for a 'Character Award". If you're reading this, I didn't forget you pal!

Character Matters? Yea, sure it does. But it's not defined by any group handing out awards.

Recently I heard of another set of awards for "Volunteers"in the community, and no offense, but I see people who have spent a couple months or years on an issue being awarded, while guys like me and organiations like PACC (my first volunteer stint here was in 1994 for the Newmarket Youth Centre as an original board member, the centre now built) never an article in the paper about, no one telling the world what a wonderful guy I am for volunteering in community development, or for my youth work, or for helping those in need, seniors, the disabled or for spending 6 months all told of full time hours, all working towards gathering info and writing a report, ultimately endorsed by YR council to the Ontario Government. A report I might say was worth 10's of thousands of dollars, donated free for their use, yet sits there as an unused asset. Not one a feature story or any story on PACC either, ever, whilst some groups get coverage several times every year. So it was a tough sled my friends. Capeche?

To set the record straight, I've never been paid a dime for any of my poverty or community development work, and so when someone wrote to the Era Banner inferring I was ' a highly paid..." I never got an opportunity to rebut since they stopped printing my letters to them years ago when I criticized for us building only a single women's shelter (men were openly homeless on the streets) when their Editor in Chief was also on its board - despite the assistance I've given them to get award winning stories and being Chair of the voice of poverty in York Region no matter how they tried to  ignore them. And when I realized and wrote of men dying while living on our streets and they wouldn't cover that even, that's when I dug in .

Volunteer run PACC gives donated pumpkins at the 2014 IDE of Poverty event @ Riverwalk Commons in Newmarket
I got involved, originally because I saw a need, in a community that seemed to have little pride and saw kids without esteem or discipline in some cases, and not for political reasons. My literal first act was to stop kids from banging a pipe on a road sign in the neighbourhood. "You live here. Have some respect I'd said". Ironically it seemed they welcomed my words and attention and I later found out even the local schools had treated the kids living there differently which I found unacceptable. People were being treated unjustly in my eyes and kids were the victims often, so there seemed much room for improvement and hoped I could make a difference. I know I did now because the kids, now adults, have told me I did. That's the only award I need. Although I did accept the Queens Diamond Jublilee Medal because of my nominee - Canadian Crime Victims Foundation. Of course that was for my contributions to Cnada from the queen, and not local recognition. That stays vacant.

Mike Thornhill Award winner enabled to play ice hockey
YR Commissioner Adelina Urbanski
Youths have approached me all winter about the road hockey event and the nets balls and sticks supply, but no more, as even stalwart York Region Housing, which'd always been willing before to help out, has ignored it's own community assets, no longer providing those funds, I suppose to use an unproven regional fave for all their youth funding...and a lot more I'm sure than the $300 we ever got to operate for their teams entered. I still sit as a now 6 year volunteer on their housing advisory committee though, despite, in my opinion, their failure to use what's right in front of them. But you see, I don't hold it against them, as strategies are assigned by the municipality Region of York and know some things they cannot control - and the kids are more important than my personal beliefs...and because character matters. Lowercase.

And despite contrary assertions from York Region's Commissioner, so long as York Region continues to and Newmarket and Aurora continue to leave grassroots groups and members out of their boards and strategy sessions, they will continue to miss the mark. I learned long ago that the best programs originate from the ground up and not the top down, and, until they have some inclusion, that won't change. That's one of the first changes I'd make.

My private business seems to have a hard time getting any traction locally, despite being an industry award winner, with anyone that deals within certain circles I've noticed, and no one has ever offered me a full time job within the Region or in the agencies either - while my colleagues have - so believe me when I say I've had every reason to back off. Geez yet I'm even trained in dispute resolution and group facilitation through C.M.H.A..

But you know, upon reflection, with my experience now, with having dealt with ministers and attended dozens of invite only meetings, being locked-in for budgets and attended for both the provincial and federal governments in addition to the initiatives I started or participated in, including presenting deputations to both town and regional councils and attending in parliament, and through advocacy, I've come to forge relationships that should be beneficial to the cause.
Last I heard the Character Matters after school
ball hockey program had morphed to ice hockey and then cancelled altogether,
once again showing me they're missing the mark.
and its about a life in between the games, not the game itself...and engaging them a bit to influence. Meantime those kids are sitting on green boxes now instead of goal creases.

It's where they live, for them more than 
beating boredom, forming friendships, a team, a community a belonging, pride. Constructive.

What was it Al Pacino's character Col Slade says in the movie Scent Of A Woman when he addresses the "character" the school was teaching through its action of rewarding a rich, privileged kid who's parents were big donors, at the expense of ruining a poor kids life,

"Hoo - rah! Watch what kind of citizens you're making here!"

Tom out.

Newmarket Library Odour Issue

Posted in the bathrooms. Criminalizing them won't help.
You may have read about the recent smelly affair and controversy in the Era Banner or The Toronto Sun where I'm quoted in regards to a letter that is being distributed by the Newmarket Public Library to " offenders" in an effort to rid them of , well, human smells. Oh, perfumes are apparently covered by it as well but I've never read a policy quite so worded. The signage posted in the washrooms also tells a story. But, in all fairness, Librarians aren't, and shouldn't be expected to be, social workers.

That said, and notwithstanding that fact, the groups they conferred with seem to me to be the ones at fault here. I'm not sure who they asked, but it definitely wasn't PACC which hosted York Region's only ever social audit in 2010 which included political leaders from across the region, front line workers, to shelter dwellers, to ODSP recipients, to the disabled (See the video) complete with follow up report / recommends, co-written by myself along with the former York Region Food Network and NDP federal Mp candidate, Yvonne Kelly. That report took us 6 months.

PACC's first concern was making it as user friendly as possible and to make everyone feel welcome while treating the participants with dignity and respect.

In fact many York Region entities scored poorly from conditions at "domicile" group homes to narrowly targeted services. One of the main themes that stood out was the lack of supports for men and the treatment people were receiving from social services and from distributors of many of the the existing supports. The lone full time men's  Porter Place shelter users were particularly vocal that workers there did not treat them with any respect and that the programs were non existent or inaccessible for most. Even the location is remote, miles from any town, in between Bradford and Newmarket, along a desolate stretch. It's all they have here, outside winter, when they are put in a big room to share the possible unpleasant smells of those dragging themselves in to escape the cold. But no one gives that a second thought.

With few options, York Region men also end up in Toronto
Getting back to the library. Examining why the homeless attend the libraries can lead all the way back to the stem - no home - never mind a shelter. Libraries provide warmth, access to peers, jobs, friends, family, and a place to socialize and sometimes wash up or change in a pinch. But they aren't a social club. And the white elephant of nice families and kids attending and perhaps being dissuaded to do so because of them is also present. So I get it. But we can actually use the library experience to make a positive. Click here to see where this library homeless hub idea is already working!
Newmarket Public Library

What if we somehow used the library as a place to intervene? A place where you can engage them and perhaps steer those in need into a real help like a psychiatrist coming once a month or a housing support group or assist getting them access to medical and community supports. Even hold fun supportive types of events including art therapy, poetry reads - whilst always having refreshments and some type of access to computers etc in that area set for them within the library. This wouldn't mean they would be unable to use the whole library just encouraged to use 'theirs".

It may sound far fetched but libraries have become hubs for them for a number of variables, particularly in small towns, and so I say we embrace it as an opportunity to engage and save some lives. Studies in the US and Australia show men committing suicide 3 to 1 vs women and with men making up the bulk of our street homeless I think its about time we offered them too an option of life - which all starts with a home - for which they'd be last on any lists in York Region to get any.


New YR women's shelter
One could take it one step further and say that stats also show that domestic abuse is closer to 50 / 50 between the sexes yet with men being reluctant to report such occurrences, they are not even acknowledged by the region - or how else do you explain the discrepancy with there being 6 shelters for abused women, one for just single women with 40 beds, one for single moms and families and every new spot for transitional housing was slotted to only the single women to go with the only other transitional housing YR has for abused women but only 26 full time beds for single men who make up the overwhelming bulk of the street homeless. Fair? Fair enough. Then let's not complain about smells. It should be the least of what we're concerning ourselves with right?

I went to the Trinity Church to find  out about showers they direct the "public' to use if apparently in need as deemed by the smells police but at 3:45 the doors were locked and no one answered the bell even though the operation hours say until 4... But gee that absessed tooth that stinks won't be removed by a shower anyway, nor my dirty clothes. Well no library today I guess.

Sample of scent policy

This is sample of what a notice looks like from a coalition we are involved in looking to bring dental care to low wage earners -  

The next Dental Coalition meeting is being held on Mar 22/16 from 10:00-11:00am at VCHC boardroom. Please find attached the agenda and the last meeting minutes.

Thank you and hope to see everyone,


Hosay Saboor, BHS, BScN
Administrative Assistant
Vaughan Community Health Centre
9401 Jane Street, Suite 206, Vaughan, ON  L6A 4H7

The VCHC  promotes a Scent-Free Workplace. In consideration to those who are sensitive to chemicals, VCHC kindly asks you to refrain from wearing perfumes, colognes and other scented products at its office and its events.

PACCman out

House of Hope for Mental Health Care delayed license in Y.R....Why?

It's been almost a year since we last helped find a suitable tenant for the "House of Hope" located just north of Green Lane on Leslie St in Newmarket, Ontario, or Sharon, technically. The people we found have experience running homes for those in need and have been running this place since moving in, like a clean, well oiled, machine.

Has been home of a type to help people for generations now
The residents there are dished out their medications of course, and each gets their own room (some domicile housing providers puts 3 and 4 in one room!), but, unlike a previous well known Cross Links group that ran a home their for 9 years (and ran / runs many more), and which applications for licenses seem to get rubber stamped despite long time complaints about the 'care' they take of the residents in their care, they are not allowed to smoke in their units or eat in their rooms, and it's enforced - keeping the possibilities of any mice or ants infestations to a minimum.

Every room has natural light
For 9 years this so called group of "care takers" either allowed smokers to smoke in bed without repercussions, or turned a blind eye to it one supposes, along with any "inspectors", as evidenced by being found in such a state whenever the building's owner would drop in for visits often finding piles of butted cigarettes bedside in some units as well as holes, and walls left with nonsensical writing across them. Residents were also fed microwaved frozen meals as their nourishment to eat in their rooms. He also relayed that people never seemed to be doing anything either when he'd visit.

This new group makes home made meals and has a supper table and common areas that seat everyone, changes clean linens regularly, and keeps the place spic and span. If an employee doesn't do the job expected and up to standards they are let go, period.

In fact, in the 9 years a previous group had the place the owner did not recall an inspector ever coming out to check on how they ran things. He'd even find drug needles in corners of common areas and bring it to their attention, another time a resident had a sword-like knife in their room which is not allowed. Yet never an inspector it seemed.

He also told me the current proprietor of the residence he owns does a 10x better job of keeping the place clean, feeding residence real meals, enforcing no smoking rules and runs a no nonsense ship - unlike the rubber stamp group - yet still they have no license issued all these months later.

House room view
Inspectors have come and have been nit-picking the place for months now, one asking a fire door be added, while the next one asked it be removed etc, all the while denying their application for miniscule reasons compared to the years of squalor previously witnessed. Meantime the other group seems to be getting rewarded with new regional contracts / licenses, including now a youth residence they will be apparently running. Are they blind inspectors?

The home was left a mess too, as I was involved at the time in the initial cleanup,
Typical wall condition left by previous tenants in 2010-11
and wondered how in the world they could run a place in such a state and get away with it let alone continually be rewarded with licenses to run more. I still wonder, and meantime await this new group being approved soon as we desperately need more of this type of housing provider that both cares and knows what they are doing from a grass roots level.

Something is drastically wrong when we continue the status quot without checks, and reward groups that even our own York Region social audit pointed out our current providers are / were not handling people well, nor providing dignified care and activities, often essentially stripping residents of all their welfare funds leaving them with little or nothing to spend, and care residents despondent and depressed, often and afraid to speak up. No atmosphere for anyone to endure let alone in someone's "care".  
Completely redone after long time residents left from need
Despite providing private rooms and home made meals, The House of Hope  still takes less from those in residence there than other domiciles help themselves to, leaving more money in the hands of the residents to control and be active with....and the residents actually like living there. Does that not matter to the Region?

Another such place run on the outskirts of town has / had residents there living in fear. A young man I went to visit said another resident came into his room, which he also had to share, and helped himself in his drawer. It was common for a group of them to be in an apartment with everyone there toking etc while someone surely is dealing there. The host was busted for selling them cigarettes illegally also, yet last I heard is still in business. Wow. I guess as long as the paper work is filled out correctly, that is the main criteria. She'd actually been interested in the House of Hope, which I'd advised the property owner against, knowing what I knew.

"Unfortunately, it's all about big money Tom" the property owner replied to me as to his opinion to why, when I inquired how it didn't make sense his tenant being denied a license so long when it's evidential that so many are run so poorly.

Can always get the CBC to check out why, need be again.
All people deserve a place to live that is dignified, clean, safe and encouraging and that is what the current proprietors at the House Of Hope offer, so stop delaying good care and rewarding poor care. It doesn't look good, nor make sense in this desperate time of need for housing and care, to our residents mired with mental health and addictions. 

Absolutely no reason these people should be facing barriers at this time, in fact the Region should be happy to have someone who actually cares in the 'business". They may not run a slew of them, but it's about quality of care, not quantity of units.
Front room corner after tape & paint in 2011
Here are 3 of the outcomes mentioned as found in York Region through the social audit "Behind the Masks" in 2010

4.) We recommend that all organizations and agencies, governmental and non-governmental, along with various levels of government, utilize a Healthy Communities Model based on the Social Determinants of Health
, in their planning, service / program delivery and policy development, with a vision toward realizing health equity for all members of our communities.
5.) We urge municipal, provincial and federal levels of government to take action on key items such as the availability and affordability of housing, the availability and affordability of transportation, and the income insufficiency of marginalized groups in our communities.
6.) We urge all organizations, agencies and service providers to review their practices / policies and challenge themselves to provide the best service possible, while respecting the dignity and rights of the individuals they are serving.

York Region Voices heard in Queens Park

YRMG's Era Banner needs to respect Grassroots Voices

Recently I had a call from The Newmarket Era Banner asking me to comment on the Ontario government's announcements regarding their latest poverty reduction methods. I'm reluctant sometimes to do interviews with the paper as at times they misquote me, and, for a number of years now, have not published any of my many letters to the Editor nor any pictures.

The pics one is odd, as another recent time they'd actually asked me to come for a pic, after being asked to comment about the fact that York Region Council had voted to raise transit costs again - they are already the countries highest for local transit. I came down, they did the pic and they didn't run it. No explanation, and the article went on to replace my statement of it being the among highest in the entire country  to "already high".

In the most recent article they quoted me fairly well, however in  the following issue in " Letters to the Editor", allowed to go unchecked a letter to by a writer claiming PACC was in lock- step with the government. One need only Google the terms ' Poverty York Region" to find that is far from the case. The letter writer had used it as a sedge-way to discuss their own pet peeve, non-related to the subject of homelessness agenda, and I / we were left without defense or rebuttal so I wrote a letter to the Editor. Again, no print.

Shelter behind schedule due to plans changes
My lock-step point had been they should simply raise O.D.S.P. - Ontario Disabilities Support Program and welfare rates as their 'anti-homelessness" strategy and they'd be able to eliminate most of the "need" for their 'programs and such a heavy reliance on food bank solutions. Hardly a "lock step" position, yet it made " Letter to the Editor" without question and left for all to surmise it true since the column it referred to with my quotes was not in the same issue which leaves the reader with a final false impression and notion about PACC. I wonder if any other groups get this kind of treatment, where no pics and no letters or no articles are ever written by the newspaper yet they still call you on occasion for controlled quotes because they must.
Funny PACC's work is recognized by the Region and by the community at large, as shown through the chair being nominated for and  receiving The Queens Jubilee Award for contributions to country and co-authoring the region's social audit.

PACC's expertise and experience gets us invited to consult with government and various departments in order to help steer the direction they take, not because of any lock-step arrangement. They recognize who we are. It's time YRMG did as well and allow our voices truly heard.

How about a feature on PACC and all they've managed to accomplish, without government funding, for over 10 years, despite the silo they've been given to work in at times.

This week on Ontario budget day I will be locked in prior to the announcement and able to see the budget before the public does and ask questions of the Ministers prior to the budget announcement. Prior to this budget being tabled, we were asked to participate in input sessions to examine the directions the government would / should take - often at odds with what we felt priorities should be.

We didn't attend to say how wonderful they were doing, we attended to try and influence the direction in a way that is fair, but we always come back to a simple deduction - raise the rates first to pre Harris-like levels, and then you'll eliminate most of your "at risk" population. Add real addictions services - including gambling and drug alcohol rehabs and you'll eliminate it even further.

Join Dan's Stroll & Roll to Freedom
Simple Math - A LOCAL ROOM FOR RENT AD - $525 is the only ad I see for shared accommodation in the the Era Banner I have now. Welfare rates top out at around $600. Food banks give 3 days rations per month.

We'll be locked-in for tomorrows provincial budget. Should anybody request a comment we won't be allowed until after the 4pm provincial budget announcement. I won't hold my breath.

You can show your support for a BETTER DEAL for those on disability support on the Stroll & Roll to Freedom.

TP out

Stroll and Roll to Freedom...Roll up the Rates to Win July 7 2015

Wonderland for some..nightmare for others
As winter begins its blanket of fear upon the downtrodden, some are hurt more than others but everyone feels it. Those prone toward suffering depression are especially hard hit this time of year and those in wheelchairs, particularly those with muscular diseases as they are much harder hit. Winter for some is brutal but for others its a nightmare.

Shopping excursions for some become a monthly affair, not wanting to have to venture out more than is necessary, and socializing means mostly online and any workers that come to your door, some not into that part of the job, leaving you feeling frustrated, downtrodden and often lonely. On top of that, you've had to decide between keeping internet or eating as your food portion has long been whittled away by inflation.

Free Outdoor art for summer entertainment..Fun wow!
There was a time in your life when it wasn't like this. You walked. Ran. Worked. Socialized. But now you are controlled by others at the mercy of a system that seems brutal at times within its own best intentions.

Surely a better deal can be worked out with the Ontario Government. One that allows such a person enough living income to afford new shoes once in awhile, taste a home-made roast on occasion, and perhaps even - egads! A night out! 

Follow Dan in his
Stroll & Roll to Freedom

Men in York Region Dying Homeless

In 2014, it was reported a man had been found dead at the Go parking lot in Newmarket, Ontario. What wasn't reported, was that he had no money, no place to go, and that he had been seen there that night for hours out in the cold by the cabbies that sit at the Go station and by patrolling police officers. Ultimately, he still died... He might have been able to prolong his life if he didn't fear prosecution by jumping on a bus as is often  done by those men who are turned out into the cold when no beds are available at the shelters or he has no means to get to one. 
In 2013, I attended the funeral of yet another Newmarket man whose life consisted of a revolving shelter door. He was only 56. Men like him, who for whatever reason are not able to attain a stable roof over their heads and all the accolades that go along with that - like a healthy lifestyle and diet - usually live shorter lives. These men stay in the shelters for the maximum allotted time of 6 weeks and then couch surf  or live on the streets until such time as they can return again. Whilst staying in the shelters, they are of course expelled during the day first thing in the morning and not allowed back in until the evening. This type of lifestyle takes its toll, especially as one gets older. Statistics prove those living under these conditions live considerably shorter lives. Our current safety net system supports this
This man lived in York Region forests with his winter!

I attended a housing consultation workshop in York Region ( hosted by the Region), and although a number of organizations were there  claimed to want to make a difference, I couldn't help but notice how many exist because of marginalized people, and wondered if they all had their motives in the right places?

At the funeral, the presiding Chaplain asked if anyone would like to say anything and a number of people from a local shelter got up and spoke nicely of him. But he didn't go to those places because he wanted to - he hated shelters and community meals - he went because he had to, as he had no choice, because we leave guys like him - guys unable to quite do everything it takes to survive on their own - especially with the minimal income they're expected to try and pull their bootstraps up on, against the backdrop of average rental costs here, to fend for themselves. No " York Region's best kept Secret" Men's Centres here. Subsequently, men like him have to attend these often dangerous shelters, but, make no mistake, they'd rather not.

When I spoke of this man who died far too young, from the pulpit, it was in genuine glowing memory of how he'd look forward to volunteering for our road hockey tourney every year as it was held right near his turf - Main St - where he could be found most any day perched in a doorway watching "his" street and where we literally played the tourney one year - right on Main St. Afterwards, the Salvation Army Chaplain noted aloud how it was nice to hear how these organizations allowed him to volunteer with them, but the reality is he only volunteered for our event. That was the one he chose. In fact most other organizations wouldn't allow him to volunteer as he didn't "qualify", but they sure don't mind asking for testimonials from to solicit sympathy funds for their "causes".
      Video - All these organizations, yet still men die homeless here with no plan to change

Some of the "do-gooders" attending, most of whose organizations don't seem to respond to requests to participate in the annual Oct 17  International Day for the Eradication of Poverty event,  which is a day sanctioned by the U.N. as THE day to speak out against poverty, should be ashamed to call themselves part of the solution.

Part of the solution, is allowing people to have the tools and where-with-all to survive without charitable supports where possible, and with real dignity, and speaking up for their right to do so. The do-gooders want to do good? Come out Oct 17 to Riverwalk Commons and speak up about the lack of affordable housing for these men, programs lack, and income supports, but they're all too busy blindly hosting fundraisers for shelters and giving to food banks to notice men are really dying out there. Slowly and quickly both.

Charity / Nonprofit organizations are mandated to devote 10% of their budgets to social justice advocacy so we would expect to see them all on the only day designed specifically for that reason - Oct 17

Golden Gloves boxer John Fletcher died living here behind a Tim Hortons
I wrote about another long-time street person dying in 2012 here - a former golden glove boxer no less - and not one word written in the media. The year before, an elderly homeless man died of exposure in an abandoned trailer off Davis Drive, this relayed to me by a homeless man who had been drinking with him that night. Again, not one word written.

I certainly have nothing against EMERGENCY shelters when needed, but, sorry, I don't hear about our women dying on our streets, yet you wouldn't know it for all the kerfuffle about the "need' for another women's shelter. Shelters are not homes, and Y.R., with the among lowest rentals / owned housing ratios in the country, needs more permanent housing. We have 7 existing shelters already and of the 7, 6 already accept women in various categories. When the family shelter opened, the other women's shelter use  numbers actually dropped, yet we are still building women another one for $10 Million dollars just in build costs.

But Where will they go afterward?

Where will these women, who will have to come here from across Ontario to fill it, go afterwards?

I've said it before and I'll say it again - and all the stats and reports back me - what York Region needs is more affordable housing - particularly for singles - and especially for its homeless men.