Big Idea: Homeless Rehab Centre

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What this is:

This is an initiative to end homelessness in London, Ontario. Full stop. A just society does not allow its citizens to spend nights outside, cold, hungry, and lacking access to basic necessities (unless a citizen chooses to live this way). This is an initiative that we see us house the homeless, provide them the assistance they need to get back on their feet, and have them assume responsibility for their futures all at the same time. Support and empowerment hand-in-hand.

What this is not:

This is not an initiative designed to segregate London’s homeless population. Instead the basic premise is that they should not have to travel far to access the help they need to get back on their feet and become fully participating and contributing citizens in society.

The following is an draft sketch/plan using the former Regional Mental Health Care London (a.k.a. London Psychiatric Hospital/LPH) grounds as its basis. Empty public schools no longer required by the Thames Valley District School Board or London District Catholic School board should also be considered, especially for a pilot.

The Homeless Rehab Centre

  • All homeless looking for permanent shelter would find it at the Homeless Rehab Centre (HRC)
  • A permanent address would allow residents to receive mail, obtain an Ontario health card, obtain an Ontario driver’s license or Ontario photo card, etc.
  • One gender would be housed in what I’m calling the Northern Quad
  • The other gender would be housed in the Southern Quad
  • Central building would house:
    • Administration
    • Kitchen
    • Cafeteria
    • Social Workers (Developmental Service Works, Personal Service Works, Social Workers, etc.)
    • Security (minimal, purely for peacekeeping)
    • Training/Classrooms
  • East Building
    • Greenhouse
    • Agricultural Training
  • Medical Exam Building
    • Medical staff (Registered Nurses, Registered Nurse Practitioners, General Practitioner [family doctor])
    • Financial Advisor

Outdoor/Indoor Sports Needs

  • Horseshoe Pit
  • Basketball Court
  • Baseball Diamond
  • Gym Equipment (weights and cardiovascular machines)
  • Ball Hockey
  • Volleyball
  • Dodge Ball

The quads would be renovated so that each resident has their own micro-apartment based on the Freedom Room concept with a few small changes to add a TV and window with black-out blinds/curtains. More about the Freedom Room here.

Basic needs would be provided day one using Homes First’s Personal Needs Kit and Home Starter Kit as a template (minus the pots and pans).

The idea, as stated, is to house the homeless. While they live at the HRC they will be expected to pitch in by cooking meals (after a bit of training/lessons), cleaning, running activities, etc. I feel that self-accountability and responsibility has to be a part of this rehab initiative, as well as providing residents with elements of control over their daily activities.

Residents would be allowed to stay free while they are unemployed. After they have obtained employment, they would work with the on-site financial advisor to address past financial issues they still need to handle, and also determine how much rent they could now afford to pay towards the HRC. In this way the HRC would start building towards a self-sustainable funding model.

Eventually, once the person has a handle on their finances and a high enough gross income to afford more rent, they would be provided an additional 90 days at the HRC before being moved into more traditional affordable housing. Again this would provide a measure of self-accountability and responsibility, while still providing them with access to the HRC’s resources (social workers, health care, financial advisor, etc.) for another 6 months to 1 year.

I don’t yet have cost estimates put together because I have yet to gather some key metrics, including:

  • The number of homeless people in London
  • Number of staff that would be required
  • Average salaries for those staff

One way to help off-set some of these costs would be to ask existing organizations to either move to, or open satellite locations at, the HRC. Organizations like London Intercommunity Health Centre could lease space and provide health services, and/or a nurse practitioner-led clinic could do the same. A financial advisor could provide fee-for-service, volunteer their time, bank on commissions from investments and insurance sold to HRC residents, or even have their salary paid in full by a participating financial institution (Libro Credit Union? MainStreet Credit Union?). There would also be room for other services and stores to be located on the property, like a convenience store, ATM, vending machines, and so on. These would all be revenue generating.

The greenhouse I envision on the east side of the property, along with additional tilled land, would help offset food costs. Any crops grown could either be used on-site, or could instead be sold at a local farmers market, generating additional revenue and providing HRC residents with hands-on retail/sales experience that could, hopefully, lead to employment later.

The types of skills that could be taught at HRC are numerous, and anything that can be taught should be. It would be possible to teach computer operation, cooking, agricultural, retail, business, and so on.

I have a list of people to contact to get additional feedback from on what would be needed, how this could be funded, and whether or not it’s doable. So far the feedback I’ve received is that this is worth pursuing, so I’m putting this out there now in order to see what type of traction it can attain. I’m happy to work with existing groups that are currently putting something similar together, and will continue to edit this as I put more time and effort into it.

Questions I need to get answered at this point:

  • How would land/a building be acquired?
  • What sort of capital costs would be incurred?
  • What sort of operating costs would be incurred?
  • Can the HRC be made monetarily self-sustainable?

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, comments, or anything else to add.

Bethesda Cannot Be Saved

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I’ve been worried about the fate of the Bethesda Centre ever since The Salvation Army announced its impending closure a couple of months ago.

Raise $1.5 million by May 31 so that Bethesda can be run for the next 5 or 6 years, or we’re closing it.

Well that’s not a very fair proposition, now is it? As of this moment the TSA has managed to raise $127,213 itself, and the Save Bethesda Committee (unaffiliated) has raised another $128,480. That’s a total of $255,693 and enough to let Bethesda Centre run for another year without any budget shortfalls.

And yet, TSA refuses to extend the May 31 deadline.

Justin freakin’ Bieber, whose mom stayed at Bethesda Centre while she was pregnant with him, is doing something to help out. His cut of the sales of “Turn To You,” a song he wrote for his mom, is going to Bethesda. And now another celebrity may be hopping on board to help out. But to what end?

Load up SalvationArmy.ca. Where’s the “Help Save Bethesda!” plea? Way below the fold for most monitors. I run a 1440×900 resolution on a 19″ widescreen monitor, and I still had to scroll down to find the link to click on. Nathan Smith just did a good job of summing up how little TSA seems to care. No press conferences since the announcement, TSA won’t talk to the press about it, TSA staff didn’t show up to the press conference about Justin Bieber’s support, no active fundraising out in public, etc.

Why? Because the Salvation Army doesn’t want to run Bethesda Centre anymore. That’s the conclusion I came to last week after taking a step back and looking at the big picture. And that was just before I had Orpheum Hosting Solutions embark on a business-led campaign to convince other businesses to donate a certain dollar amount per employee they have. I thought that at $5 per employee, if a company like rtraction can donate $100, and Info-Tech can donate $1,000, and Resolution Interactive donated $60, eventually we would hit the goal… or at least damn close.

Why a business-led campaign? Because a future employee could come out of Bethesda Centre. Because it’s important to show that your business cares about the place its located in, and this is one way to do that for a small cost. Because you can buy a lot of goodwill for $50 or $100 in this manner. Yes, those may all seem like selfish reasons, but I think the end more than justifies the means.

Instead, I decided to scrap the campaign. Bethesda, in its current form, cannot be saved because the Salvation Army doesn’t want it, and will not let it, be saved. They’re doing what they can to quell the conversation, and even go to some lengths to hide the fact that the centre is in trouble at all. If it wasn’t for the Save Bethesda Committee, there would be nary a mention of this whole ordeal in mainstream media.

What really makes me angry about all this is that the Salvation Army is a Christian organization, supposedly “Giving Hope Today.” Not today they’re not, and certainly not to the single moms that the Bethesda Centre supports. I would feel better about this is TSA had just come out and said they don’t want to run Bethesda Centre anymore. And with my support for the organization already teetering before, I can affirm I will no longer support The Salvation Army in any way.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the Save Bethesda Committee does with the money it has raised, and I’m hoping it can get the $127,213 the TSA has raised for this as well to start a new centre. After all, if that money won’t go to actually save Bethesda, then it should be handed over to some people who will.

One Way Forward

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Canada. Canada has survived and thrived over the past 144 years thanks to good leadership, determination, and vision. A vision of a nation designed to provide the most essential human rights we all deserve, while providing the opportunity for people to define their own destiny. But that ability is being threatened. Threatened the powers that be who are willing to stifle our democracy, continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, and put additional tax burden on your daily lives. Taxes, both literal and figurative, that will come in the form of higher levies on blank CDs and DVDs, a stifling of innovation by the absolute demolishing of fair use laws, an inability to get the country connected to high speed internet, so-called “support” for students that only aggravates the problem many students already have paying back student loans, allowing more and more seniors to fall below the poverty line, superprisons for unreported crime, and funding cuts for organizations that support the victims of crime. And all this leaving the sandwich generation with less time and money to help their kids or look after their ill and aging parents.

It’s a dismal state that must be corrected.

Canadians need choice. Canadians need freedom. Canadians need security. And most of all, when things get rough, Canadians need support. What they don’t need is a government that is so eager to put them in prison that they’re going to spend billions of dollars on new American-style superprisons. What Canadians don’t need is a government that seems hellbent on turning us into a warmongering nation, spending billions of dollars on jets without engines, and forgoing our previously well-known reputation for being peacekeepers. What Canada doesn’t need, or want, is to leave our neighbours and families out in the cold when they need our help the most.

It’s high time we stood up for the country we live in. Now is the time where we must look to the future and decide what we want this country to look like, to act like at home and around the world, and how we want to be seen amongst our peers. We have a very serious choice to make, and it can make or break this country.

In order to survive and thrive in the next 144 years, this nation has but one way forward. We need to invest in ourselves, in our communities,  and in the way of life we hold dear. That means making decisive, wise choices in how we spend our money, how we treat the future leaders of this land, and how we treat those that are suffering.

We need to invest in our children and grandchildren. Students need genuine help getting to and through school, and that’s why the Liberal Party’s platform introduced the Learning Passport, providing up to $1500 per year for students that get the grades, and deserve to get a post-secondary education.

That’s why the Liberal Party platform brings back the deal it signed with the provinces, that was killed by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, ensuring each province has the ability to get the funding they need in order to train new early childhood educators, create more childcare spaces, and help parents out in the way they need to most.

Canadians should have the right to take the time off work you need to look after your parents without being penalized for it. That’s why they want to create a new Family Care Employment Insurance Benefit, so that caregivers take six months off work to care for gravely ill family members at home; and on top of that a new Family Care Tax Benefit worth up to $1,350 annually, to help low- and middle-income family caregivers manage the costs associated with looking after their parents.

And, of course, those who need the healthcare system should feel comfortable knowing that it will be there to take care of them thoroughly, efficiently, with the best care possible. The federal government has to continue to work with the provinces to make that a priority now and in the future.

We need to expand and enhance the Canada Pension Plan, before it starts having the same problems the U.S. Social Security Plan has. Canadians need to know the CPP will be there for them, and will make a meaningful impact on their retirement lifestyles. Canadians have also been clear that existing retirement saving methods aren’t enough. That’s why the Liberal Party has proposed a Secure Retirement Option – an enhancement to the CPP that’s voluntary, leaving you with the choice to participate or not, and not run by the banks.

We need to ensure that affordable housing is available, that we leave this country and planet cleaner than it was when we came into it, where service to your community is recognized and rewarded, and where the arts get just as much respect as our office workers, construction workers, and doctors do. Canadians need to know that the food on their table not only tastes great, but is good for them and won’t make them sick. And rural Canada, in all its forms, finally get the respect it deserves from the cities it feeds.

That’s the Canada you deserve. That’s the Canada I want to live in. Anything less is unacceptable.

And when we can afford it, we will reduce taxes. We will reduce personal income taxes. We will reduce business taxes. But we can’t go on running the country as if printing more money is the answer. This all has to be done responsibly and with a level head recognizing the situation for what it is, and the implications of where money comes from, and how it’s spent.

So join me in voting for a Canada we can all be proud of. Vote for your local Liberal candidate, and give them the mandate to turn this country around and into one that all Canadians can be proud of, and is once again respected on the world stage. Our livelihoods depend on it.

Keeping Track of the Candidates (EML)

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This Federal election, it’s easier than ever to keep track of what candidates are doing and saying. At least, it should be. Yesterday I showed you how to keep track of the candidates in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. Today, as promised, we’re going to be looking at the candidates running in Elgin-Middlesex-London.

Joe Preston – Conservative Party Candidate

Graham Warwick – Liberal Party Candidate

Fred Sinclair – New Democratic Party Candidate

UPDATE: Ryan Dolby dropped out and Fred Sinclair is in for the NDP. Both the Conservative and Liberal candidates have made themselves very available online on both big social networks, along with their own websites where more contact information exists. Fred’s on Twitter and Facebook, but his Facebook page currently has 0 likes.

Again, if there are other parties you’d like me to dig up the information for, please let me know. I know of the Christian Heritage Party, and other fringe parties, but we all know they don’t get many votes. However, I will still dig up the information if you want me to.

Keeping Track of the Candidates (LKM)

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This Federal election, it’s easier than ever to keep track of what candidates are doing and saying. At least, it should be. Here in the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, a mostly rural riding, it’s actually quite difficult to keep track of most of the candidates electronically. Of course you can purchase the Middlesex Banner or Strathroy Age Dispatch, but if you want real-time updates and don’t want to rely on /A\ Channel News possibly paying attention to the county, you have to rely on electronic methods.

As someone who is online throughout the day and evening, I thought I would help out my fellow LKMers by compiling a list of the candidates and how to keep track of them. The results were a bit disappointing.

Bev Shipley – Conservative Party Candidate

Gayle Stuck – Liberal Party Candidate

Joe Hill – New Democratic Party Candidate

Jim Johnston – Green Party Candidate

I must give props to Ms. Stucke for doing something different (BlackBerry Messenger Group) and Mr. Johnston for being available pretty much everywhere online. It’s disappointing that Mr. Hill and Mr. Shipley are making themselves scarce online.

If there are other parties you’d like me to dig up the information for, please let me know. I know of the Christian Heritage Party, and other fringe parties, but we all know they don’t get many votes. However, I will still dig up the information if you want me to.

Tomorrow I’ll post the information for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

* Updated April 26 with new information on Bev Shipley and Joe Hill.