Homeless Need Homes, Jobs not Shelters

"House of Hope" in final stages of renovations much done by paid homeless and at-risk workers. Volunteer tradesmen helped organize the crews.
A minimum wage worker working full time in Ontario makes $1,000 below the poverty line.
Former Golden Glove boxer John Fletcher lived here. He died in June homeless.
Ed sits on Fletch's former "couch" in his former "apartment" behind a donut shop in Newmarket.

What a disappointment our media here(York Region) is and predictable too. For that reason I have no excuse for setting up a formerly homeless person to be interviewed by the papers in hopes it might spark offers of work for him. I knew better if I was really honest with myself, but instead I delivered him to the slaughter. Have I finally become what I despise? Someone or something that uses the plights of others to further their own personal agendas?

Not that the article was that hard hitting on (sic)except that it humiliated him amongst his street friends. He had also asked that his former boss not be named, yet Chris Traber the Era Banner Reporter printed it anyway. In addition he wrote the story without even coming out personally to meet him, instead sending a photographer/videographer alone who informed me the story was already written. I controlled (asked) the questions put to him for the YRMG video, so it at least hit hard on some points - providing they didn't sensor, I mean edit it to death - instead of what this article turned into, which was a poster for propping up the shelters. We were very clear this was to be about next steps for the homeless and not another commercial for the local shelters. Thanks to our efforts last year in the media and beyond, the York Region shelters did well with donations and got extended to 7 days from 5 at Inn from the Cold, yet we've never heard a word from those running them ..I don't know maybe to say thanks or invite us to something?

YRMG Writer Traber had contacted me originally seeking a story and pic of homeless people and how they deal with insects etc in the summer living outdoors, but I wasn't going to work too hard on that storyline as I didn't feel it compelling enough to be asking someone to expose themselves publicly. I informed him that since the last article we set them up with (winter), some of those guys that were homeless we've now gotten jobs in some cases, places to live, given phone numbers through which they've been enabled, trained for work and on, and so asked can we not do a story that spoke about these things that PACC has been involved in? Real difference making via trying to get people back into the loop of life instead of focusing on shelters (again). THESE PEOPLE HATE LIVING IN THEM I(we) told the writer but that never got printed. Nothing against writing about shelters but this was not their time. Why not touch on assisting people out of them?

I mentioned to the writer and photographer that a former local golden glove boxer John Fletcher who lived on the streets had died in June homeless, and that his story would make a great piece about a former champion boxer who became an alcoholic and who'd had a wife and 3 kids and a house which he gave her when he moved to the streets. He was well known and lived behind the Tim Horton's Plaza at Davis and Leslie where his stuff still lies - his can for cigarette butts untouched and filled with water and his bench and green tarp makeshift tent still in place. The street guys tell me no one goes there anymore since he died, his home left intact as a tribute to his memory almost, his presence eerily looming. He was dead 6 days before they found him. This was a story! I offered the photographer to go right across the street from where we were to take some shots of his former "home" but he declined - instead opting for the beer store "money shot" of our hapless victim toting recycled cans he collects for money while unemployed. As Old John Fletcher would say, " It's 60/40 for the good guys."

Even the quote attributed to me does not even resemble what I said regarding contract work - my quote should have read, " What ever happened to people getting a job with a company and that was their job, instead of constantly having to work around contracts which can end at anytime. People need full time sustainable work." as the photoed subject person had lost his contract job (PACC got him it, also left out of the article) after 7 months - but making barely minimum wage and then not qualifying for EI makes one vulnerable to homelessness. This could have been their other focus, but no, it was determined to follow it's script to the end, homeless person be damned.

The facts are wrong too - first they quote provincial election candidate Christina Bisanz as apparently having " first hand experience" from her volunteer work at Belinda's Place - a women's shelter that is not even open yet! - and then claims we have no shelter beds for single women in York Region whatsoever and that we turned away 500 last year from getting shelter. Funny, an earlier issue of the same Era-Banner stated that it was 220 women, but nevertheless what they leave out is the fact that its not 500 or even 220 at all, in fact the same person(s) calling an abuse shelter mistakenly and who then gets referred to a youth shelter or a family shelter etc would still get counted as someone refused shelter in these stats. In addition, the same people calling numerous times throughout the year are treated as different people artificially skewing the numbers. Mark my words the women they get will be shipped here from outside York Region. The same article had stated over 1200 men were refused. No shelter calls for them. They want homes not shelters anyway.

Ms. Bisanz also seems unaware York Region has INN From The Cold as well as OUT of the Cold which both house single women, and the youth shelters for single women up to 26 years also count I would think? Most others are picked up by the various women's abuse or family shelter categories, leaving the men -with a mere 25 full time bed in the entire York Region - by far the most in need. No mention of that in the article or from publicity seeking Bisanz. No quotes from happy shelter dwellers either, just all the owners and 'volunteers".

The article finishes with a bang quoting Frank Klees that poverty needs real attention and stating that it is "definitely an issue for the election." Who is he kidding? He did nothing to contribute to the square-table on poverty but spout " just give them a job", and has sat face to face with myself and many others looking for ways for people to get out from the misery of poverty - from those in wheel-chairs, to those with (mental)health issues, low income workers, single parents, cancer survivors and on we brought before him ,yet MPP Klees' only concession was to agree it would be hard to live on the income one gets from welfare while supporting the humiliating use of food stamps to assist. This would be his solution. Of course no word back from his camp yet on their thoughts on the Poverty Free Ontario Platform. His " just give them a job" solution doesn't even guarantee one from poverty here anymore. That's how far we've digressed.

Nope, and the York Region Media Group article couldn't have bothered to mention PACC and detail some of efforts we've made in the community perhaps or maybe mention the fact we hosted and organized the region's 1st ever social audit in history as well as co-authored the report (Behind The Masks) or that we organized the 1st ever anti-poverty "protest", or some bone for us. We've never had a story focus of any kind, yet served them award winners on a plate and even while offering real proof of making a difference still no fluffy story about us like everyone else gets ...yet still we plod on... with no government funding... and meantime the article listed organizations pretending to offer non-existing counselling and "housing support" and who received several hundred of thousands of dollars recently to place people into nowhere - as there is no affordable housing available!..while leaving source PACC's contact info out of it! Thanks! Geez, we could open the " House of Hope" with affordable units and in-house REAL supports with job skills training for only $50,000, and then sustained it by running it as having also a built-in business with some newly trained paid workers living there...had I been able to get some attention to a story on it and maybe a fundraiser ...I've asked about it but nothing to date ...and yet the Hoedown gets 6 weeks of promos everywhere you turn!...or money from the Region. Ha.

But it was I who gambled that man's integrity, and for that I'm no better than the newspaper people. Shame on me. Perhaps I've lost my way and am not fit to lead anymore.

PACC will be hosting an evening of open Stage Entertainment and handing out a $1,000 youth education award on Friday Sept 23 at Wild Flowers Cafe om Newmarkets (225) Main St South. Proceeds to PACC. 7 pm - 9:30 pm. Voluntary cover charge. Entertainers welcome. Feature Acts include Bestov Elvis, Singer/composer/guitarist Fred Joly, Rapper Sensations Khryme Syndicate!

Powerful PACC Production....Pictorial Reminder

Tom out

PACC for a Poverty Free Ontario

Poverty Action for Change Coalition's Vice Chair Kristine Carbis outside PFO launch
Professor Marvin Novick and Peter Clutterbuck at a recent Poverty Free Ontario introduction
PACC Chair & PFO booster Tom Pearson with social assistance review Commissioner Sheikh

A Poverty Action For Change - PACC - Blog Report
Well the summer started with a bang until the sky started falling. First I lost my phone for a week, and many contacts permanently, when a Viva bus inadvertently ran over my cell phone…it’s a long story... I did resist reaching to grab for it despite a few seconds window and my cheap Scottish instincts rooting me on. Suffice to say, inconvenience would be an understatement as I try to conduct business mostly on this phone. At any rate I got another after shelling out way too much $ while also deciding to check out a new provider which has since suspended my service twice as I struggled to set up payments with them…it didn’t help that my bank paid the wrong account…Imagine not having a phone though? Many don’t and PACC has been distributing phone numbers to those without phones since March thereby enabling at-risk families and homeless individuals into homes, jobs, keep consistent contact for appointments with doctors and social workers etc, and take and receive messages 24/7. Next my computer went wonky so I wasn’t receiving emails for 2-3 weeks...imagine not having access to email or internet ever? Many don’t.
I travel the York Region transit system often and have noticed that in their quest to save money YRT have quietly (again) begun to cut service to isolated areas often containing low income residents, such as Newmarket’s route 53 bus to Bathurst St. which now stops running northbound from Yonge St around 8:30 pm, so kids working jobs to further their educations, and parents struggling to survive better hope they work 9-5 hours locally to allow them time for shopping, appointments or activities after they get home. Too bad that even if they get a job at the big local mall to pay for a bus pass there is no bus now for them to get home like there was previously as the mall closes at 9:00 pm ... and since the town raised taxi rates last year during the recession (poor people without cars mostly take cabs), giving away an hours pay from a part time job just to get home doesn’t make any sense either, when you may only get a 3 or 4 hour shift and may have to pay a babysitter. It’s bad enough this service runs every hour most times, but stopping service to these areas at such an early hour to a location that’s a 50 minute summertime walk to a grocery store or high school, is hurting people’s ability to survive and further isolates and marginalizes people. This bus service doesn’t even start early enough to get someone to work by 7 or 7:30 am need be – locally! – and connections often leave one waiting a half hour or an hour leading to some local trips taking two hours to travel a 15 minute vehicle ride while hourly only service from Fairy Lake / Main Street Newmarket stops at 8:30 pm. Ridiculous. So much for the new downtown renovations being for everyone to enjoy.
I was never more frustrated than the other day. As I struggled to make an appointment on a very hot afternoon my bus pulled in as my connecting bus was in the bay waiting already. "Great!” I thought, “Perfect timing!” But, alas, there was no spot for my bus to pull in right away and as it waited it circled the building once again before finally docking just as my connecting bus pulled out....running just once an hour! These are the reasons their YRT ridership is low on these local routes – terrible service (although increased Viva usage on main routes has helped skew the stats)! ......Keeping with the transit talk the local high-school claims the same neighbourhood is .1 km out of busing range – therefore making those kids walk or pay for transit at $80 per month - oh, and incidentally, of course increase YRT ridership with this ‘arrangement”. How people are expected to rise up out of circumstances when they are burdened with not even being able to consistently travel to work or school is a travesty and frankly a mystery as to why we’ve got this “system”. Many just quit…life or school.
In 2010, PACC in cooperation with the YRDSB, assisted some of these kids expected to walk by supplying free back-packs. PACC identified several areas where students are burdened with lengthy high school walks from isolated low and mixed income neighbourhoods. PACC Vice- Chair Kristine Carbis is currently negotiating another PACC to School program now for 2011. It’s not a bus but the wheels are turning!
I point these things out because it seems no one else (media) does. We always get a pretty picture painted it seems in our local media of all our regional run stuff here in good old York Region, and we’re told how we need all these beautiful new shelters when what we really need is more affordable housing for everyone, and especially singles, since we boast the lowest rental availability rates in the entire country! It is often men here who mostly (90%) end up truly homeless and living on the streets and who ironically have the least amount of shelter beds available to them - while being expected to ward off violent assaults, "druggies", disease, winter conditions, find jobs, housing, and access the system with few supports - unlike all other categories for people we create to decide who is more worthy of helping out…and god only help these men should they have missed a child support payment somewhere through it all because they’ll likely be denied financial assistance, or be jailed, or suffer a loss of their drivers licenses should they own one despite any circumstances. Circumstances we often help create and then exasperate in our rush to 'make someone pay".
Some of those connected with the Poverty Free Ontario campaign from across the province attended in person and on the phone last Friday, along with social service review Commissioners Francis Lankin and Munir Sheikh. Lead by PFO's Peter Clutterbuck the meeting was set up in order to express PFO’s mission, to influence the Commissioners and to make some asks such as would they make short-term recommendations prior to the election?... which I asked for... and which they politely turned down citing the need to remain non-partisan in an election year. My hope was to also have the Commissioners create a sense of urgency, in short supply with all these government bodies it seems, and I informed the Commissioners that York Region - with winter coming and only 25 full time beds for men in a population of 1.1 million (Y.R.) - could benefit from a resident influencing statement from them acknowledging the vastness and importance of this real problem (poverty) - believing such a statement may assist people to decide who to vote for - but t’was not to be… although the meeting was very productive, as I believe we assisted the Commissioners through providing clear, concise ideas and 1st hand testimonials, and as well garnered their interest to receive more statistical and practical information for their peruse to assist towards recommendations of change. Commissioner Lankin particularly liked the framing of a term put forward by PFO’s Professor Marvin Novick when he said during his time to address – “People need to be able to earn their way out of poverty” but I’d take that one step further, based on my experience and from our own PACC hosted (ISARC) social audit, and say that “People WANT to earn their way out of poverty.
Other PFO target points included unveiling the plan to virtually eliminate poverty in Ontario – like some Scandinavian and Nordic countries have accomplished with much fewer resources. Reducing poverty to 4%, as opposed to the over 10% we have now, meets this goal and the plan outlines how this can be accomplished through various adjustments including minimum wage and social service increases and carry-over benefits that cover low income workers. If you’d like to be more informed about the Poverty Free Ontario campaign or see how you can become involved click on through! A “reverse” election campaign with lawn signs will commence this Sept 15 via a province wide release for those interested! Order PFO signs and buttons through your local organizations or PFO for 25 cents a piece or through me at $1 each to help PACC survive. Signs run $2.42 per unit with metal legs for18” x 12” footers. Larger lawn signs available as well.
Speaking of survival, I received a call from a very perturbed long time PACC mom struggling to keep a roof over her head as she wrestles with red tape, income woes, rent arrears, and being refused help from welfare for making too much money - even though her total work income including child support is less than $1,000 per month. Complicating her case seems to be having two teenagers, one who just graduated high-school and is now 18, which seems to always freeze our social safety-net “system”. Usually everyone gets denied any benefits regardless of situation these days, perhaps to weed out the weak, and then has to fight for basic rights to survive. This stressed out mom is also in the middle of horrific work conditions, dictated by an empowered abusive female supervisor who seems to have a cozy after-hours relationship with male management to the point where the workers are afraid to say anything in fear of losing their jobs - as one long time employee did for speaking up. Meantime, the unchecked supervisor gains even more strength to wreak havoc with abusive conduct towards her subordinates, while complaints about her are met with threats on their jobs or a reduction of hours.
A doctor’s note explaining this PACCers medical condition asking for retraining (desk) and a move to a later start time have been ignored as well she tells me and ultimately they will use her “tardiness” against her despite the Doc's letters. As I listened to her plight and the desperation she feels regarding the degrading conditions in her work place, I advised her to take videos and contact the labour board. I began to realize that this is why and how things get started - with someone who’s just had enough and has nothing left to lose. I asked about a union. While some of their shop is unionized, some workers in this large company are not, and the caller wondered about starting one? She's shared in the past that she has always spoken up for peoples rights, even in her native Guyana before coming to Canada and having kids here, and that she will fight for her rights and the rights of her co-workers and her fired friend – who by all accounts was a well liked supervisor when let go for frivolous reasons. Her co-workers are interested to start one as well but afraid of being fired. I promised her I’d spread the word to help her start a union in her workplace, and so this is what I’ve done here!
Here’s a fun original video with some important messages as Bumbling Brit Reporter Thompson Williams is still Stuck In Canada Day 49
Tom Out!