Home­less stats re­vealed

Au­thor of study sug­gests find­ing of 733 home­less in Tim­mins is a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - News - LEN GIL­LIS

The new num­bers of home­less peo­ple in Tim­mins are only slightly higher than the num­bers pre­vi­ously re­vealed in stud­ies car­ried out by the Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity.

This doesn’t mean the prob­lem has sta­bi­lized or is get­ting any bet­ter ac­cord­ing to Dr. Carol Kauppi, the direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Re­search in So­cial Jus­tice and Pol­icy at Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity.

The in­for­ma­tion was part of the World Home­less Day fo­rum for com­mu­nity feed­back that was held in Tim­mins Wed­nes­day.

Pro­fes­sor Kauppi is the same per­son who au­thored the first study in 2011 show­ing there were 720 known home­less in­di­vid­u­als in Tim­mins, a num­ber that was re­garded as be­ing un­usu­ally high.

In the new­est num­bers re­leased in a pre­lim­i­nary re­port on Wed­nes­day, for Tim­mins and the ter­ri­to­rial Dis­trict of Cochrane, the in­crease was not high.

“We did this study and found that the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing with home­less is 1,782 (Cochrane Dis­trict) and in Tim­mins, the num­ber is 733. So a large pro­por­tion of those peo­ple are liv­ing right here in Tim­mins,” said Kauppi.

She added that the enu­mer­a­tion of home­less peo­ple in­cluded not only Tim­mins, but those in Hearst, Ka­puskas­ing, Cochrane, Moosonee, Math­e­son and Iro­quois Falls. She said the num­bers re­leased this week are only part of pre­lim­i­nary re­port and that a full re­port is to be re­leased in Novem­ber.

“The gen­eral find­ing is that the sin­gle big­gest cat­e­gory of peo­ple liv­ing with home­less­ness, they’re liv­ing with hid­den home­less­ness,” said Kauppi, who added that this was a com­mon pat­tern in Northern On­tario towns and cities.

“It is not easy to do a study and get those peo­ple to come out, so we al­ways know that the num­ber we come up with up is go­ing to be a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate. There are more peo­ple liv­ing with home- less­ness. Still when we com­pare this num­ber with other places in Canada we find it a high rate of home­less.”

Kauppi’s re­port also pro­vided def­i­ni­tions of home­less as fol­lows:

• Ab­so­lute home­less — No home of their own, emer­gency shel­tered or sleep­ing out­doors;

• Hid­den home­less — Con­cealed home­less, couch surf­ing with friends and rel­a­tives;

• At Risk — El­e­vated risk, low wages, un­able to pay rent, might be sub­ject to ill­ness, vi­o­lence and evic­tion;

• Chronic — Per­sons who have been con­tin­u­ally home­less for six months or more;

• Episodic — Per­sons who fre­quently ex­pe­ri­ence home­less­ness, such as three or more times in a year.

She added that for most peo­ple, their idea of home­less­ness might be see­ing a per­son sleep­ing in a door­way or an al­ley.

“That’s the vis­i­ble form of home­less, peo­ple liv­ing on the streets. They are cer­tainly there in these com­mu­ni­ties. We found there are some peo­ple liv­ing with ab­so­lute home­less­ness in all the com­mu­ni­ties we stud­ied.

“The peo­ple liv­ing with hid­den home­less­ness are there too, but they’re in­vis­i­ble. The most com­mon form of hid­den home­less­ness is couch surf­ing,” said Kauppi.

She said this means peo­ple find friends and fam­ily mem­bers who are will­ing to let them sleep on a couch, in a base­ment or a garage for short pe­ri­ods of time.

“It is harder to get to those peo­ple but it is im­por­tant to have ini­tia­tives to in­clude them be­cause they suf­fer from some of the most se­ri­ous im­pacts of home­less­ness. Their diet is in­ad­e­quate, they’re very stressed, very of­ten they have men­tal health and phys­i­cal health chal­lenges.”

She also spoke about other is­sues iden­ti­fied with home­less such as men­tal health con­cerns and ad­dic­tions.

Kauppi said she could not say for cer­tain whether home­less­ness causes ad­dic­tion and men­tal health prob­lems, or whether it was the other way around.

“It is that chicken-and-egg ques­tion. What comes first? It is very hard to de­ter­mine very of­ten. But I have in­ter­viewed lots of peo­ple who say they lost their hous­ing. Maybe they were evicted. They had a job loss. They be­came ill; had a se­ri­ous men­tal health chal­lenge, and be­come home­less.”

But she said when peo­ple are strug­gling and try­ing to cope with be­ing home­less, sub­stance abuse can hap­pen but that is not al­ways the case.

“Think of it this way. A lot of peo­ple have ad­dic­tions and are housed. So it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily that ev­ery per­son who be­comes ad­dicted to sub­stances will be­come home­less. Not at all.”

Kauppi said there is some progress, with places such as the Liv­ing Space in Tim­mins, but added it is not enough. She said more sup­port is needed and that where you live makes a dif­fer­ence.

“Home­less­ness is a se­ri­ous is­sue in Toronto, but there are a lot of re­sources there. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is lo­cated in Toronto, Queen’s Park. They see it. It’s vis­i­ble. It’s top of mind for them. They in­vest in Toronto,” she re­marked and added that hous­ing costs play a role.

“So it is a ques­tion of the af­ford­abil­ity of hous­ing in my opin­ion as a rea­son why home­less has been on the rise in our com­mu­ni­ties and so I men­tioned that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has with­drawn from so­cial hous­ing in the last cou­ple of decades.”

“We see that di­rectly trans­lated into higher rates of home­less­ness. And within Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties also, on re­serves. Hous­ing is in­ad­e­quate. There are not enough places for peo­ple to live. So they leave and come to our towns and cities and are added to our home­less pop­u­la­tions.”

KayLee Moris­sette, out­go­ing ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor and re­gional co­or­di­na­tor of Cochrane Dis­trict So­cial Plan­ning Coun­cil and co­founder of the Home­less Coali­tion Of Tim­mins, also com­mented at the fo­rum.

She said she was not sur­prised by the num­bers that were pre­sented but she is sur­prised by the de­mo­graphic break­down.

“I am shocked and dis­ap­pointed in the high pro­por­tion of Indige­nous in­di­vid­u­als ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in our com­mu­ni­ties. But that just goes to show that we need more com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion on so­lu­tions. We need to en­gage more voices as well,” she sug­gested.

Moris­sette added that the com­mu­nity needs to bet­ter un­der­stand just how widespread home­less is in Tim­mins.

“I think that peo­ple still don’t un­der­stand what home­less­ness is. Be­cause they’re not see­ing 700 peo­ple sleep­ing out­side in al­ley­ways and down­town, they don’t ac­knowl­edge that home­less­ness is an is­sue here,” she said.

“I think what we’re see­ing is an in­crease in some pan­han­dling ac­tiv­ity down­town. That might be be­tween five and eight in­di­vid­u­als peo­ple are see­ing. So they might ac­knowl­edge that there’s a dozen home­less peo­ple, but not the num­bers we ac­tu­ally know ex­ist.”

Moris­sette said home­less­ness is an is­sue that needs at­ten­tion from all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing city hall.

“It is a com­mu­nity is­sue that con­stituents should be aware of and should be help­ing to im­ple­ment so­lu­tions for,” she said.

It was one year ago, on Oct. 24, 2017, that city coun­cil ap­proved a one-time grant of $200,000 to be spent on the ren­o­va­tions and oper­at­ing costs of Liv­ing Space, an overnight warm­ing cen­tre for the home­less on Cedar Street North.

Still, said Moris­sette, com­mu­nity help is sorely needed.

“So­cial as­sis­tance rates fall a lit­tle short in help­ing to im­ple­ment the so­lu­tions. So we know that peo­ple are us­ing food banks, we know that peo­ple can’t pay rent. And so­cial as­sis­tance doesn’t fully cover those hu­man rights, and I would iden­tify them as hu­man rights. But cer­tainly it is a prob­lem of all lev­els of gov­ern­ment and all com­mu­nity mem­bers,” she said.

Len Gilis/ The Daily Press

Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Dr. Carol Kauppi re­vealed Wed­nes­day that the num­bers of home­less peo­ple in Tim­mins are still high, as many as 733 peo­ple iden­ti­fied, al­though Kauppi said that fig­ure is con­ser­va­tively low. Kauppi said one of the key is­sues in Northern On­tario is what she iden­ti­fied as the hid­den home­less: peo­ple who are down and out, some­times stay­ing with friends or fam­ily, but not able to af­ford or main­tain a place of their own.

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