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:
- Social Workers (Developmental Service Works, Personal Service Works, Social Workers, etc.)
- Security (minimal, purely for peacekeeping)
- East Building
- 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
- 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.