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.