Blogs by Patrick Joesph Schnerch
Facts that contribute to social degeneration
9/6/2010 10:59:50 PM
I heard today that a ghetto is the result of a collective of people who don't care. I see this as being very true. Here are some predicted numbers from 2007. Again, the estimated numbers do not coincide to what they are today, but it gives you an idea.
It costs over $50,000 of the taxpayer’s money to support a homeless person in B.C. With a 30% growth factor, the number of homeless people can double by 2010. The Victoria Police Department identified 324 homeless residents-many with mental illness and/or addiction problems instigating 23,033 police encounters at a cost of $9.2 million over a 40 month period.
The city has already spent $1.4 million this year on expenditures related to homelessness such as clean-up costs, needle pick-up, and damage to sensitive ecosystems, security and responses to complaints. Without proper access to medical services, the homeless population relies on the emergency room. 66% have mental illness and/or addiction problems when being admitted.
A government committee stated in a published report that the emergency staff does not have the time or patience to treat people with mental illness and/or addiction. I found that statement discriminatory. The doctors and nurses chose that profession. If they cannot handle the heat, they should get out of the fire.
Over 20 service providers spend over $76 million on mental illness, addiction and housing every year. It costs 33% more for providing services to the homeless as compared to providing housing and support.
Mental illness is a serious disturbance in thoughts, feelings and perceptions which affect the quality of everyday life. Such illnesses include but are not limited to schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety and eating disorders which have profound effects on a person’s ability to function effectively or even manage the most minor tasks. At any given time 10% of Canadians have a mental illness. For people 15 to 24 years of age, it is 18%.
There are 4,000 suicides each year in which 90% of them suffered from a mental illness. In the aboriginal communities, this is 4 to 5 times higher than the national average, and escalates to 50 times the Canadian average in places like Sioux Lookout.
The highest rate of depression is found in people 20 years of age and younger. The highest rate of anxiety is in people between 20 to 29 years of age. Eating disorders affect 3% of women and 3% of men. The bad news is that 10 - 20% of these women die from their disorders. As mentioned 92% of our incarcerated population has a mental illness and 86% of the homeless also suffer from this.
Substance abuse is a major problem in Canada. 13% are at risk drinkers and depression soon follows. 44% of the prostitutes started the business to pay for their drug habit. One baby a day is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the leading cause of preventable irreversible brain damage.
Dr. Keith Martin, M.P has been working towards providing awareness on the hill about these devastating conditions which affect all of us. The federal government established The Canadian Mental Health Commission to oversee a mental health strategy to combat these problems. Their other goal is to provide awareness to Canadians with the hope of reducing discrimination and stigmatism.
There are 1,242+ homeless residents from all ages ranging from children to seniors. 75% are male. Two-thirds of the homeless residents are absolutely homeless. 30% of them are at high risk for health needs, while 70% are at low to moderate. Mental illness and addiction are the norm with at least 40% suffering from a diagnosable mental illness.
At least 50% of homeless residents have problems with drugs or alcohol. The most common drugs injected are cocaine and heroine. Commonly smoked drugs are crack and crystal methamphetamine.
There are between 1,500 and 2,000 injection drug users in Victoria with 40% of them being homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless. These users are quite young. 75% are male and 20% are aboriginal. One survey indicated that 13% were infected with HIV and 74% are infected with Hepatitis C. 13% of injection users reported injecting on the streets of Victoria. 25% of homeless residents have both mental illness and addiction problems, (Dual-Diagnosis).
Approximately 250-300 adolescents and emerging adults are street youth. Many cited problems such as conflict, violence and neglect by family or caregiver as being the main reasons for homelessness. The majority are using drugs or alcohol. One third of homeless youth are aboriginal. Over half of the children who are growing out of foster care system are also aboriginal.
25% of homeless are young women between the ages of 21 to 30. 10% earn their income from the sex trade. Many are fleeing violence, 25% of them have children. Some of these families are absolutely homeless, as opposed to being unstably housed.
20 to 25% of homeless are aboriginal. Aboriginal residents only make up 2.8% of the population of the Capital Region District. Loss of cultural identity associated with systematic discrimination has led to societal breakdown, loss of family supports, widespread FASD, unemployment and substance abuse.
These facts were provided by several sources which have been made public by the City of Victoria. From studying the numbers, you soon realize we are having an epidemic. With new users joining the ranks, these numbers can greatly escalate over the next few years if we don’t act now.
Is it a drug problem or is it a mental or emotional concern that has fueled into an addiction? Perhaps, other factors influenced this behaviour such as feeling unworthy, inadequate or feeling like an outcaste due to gender, race, or sexual preference. Neglect as a child or lack of compassion can have irreparable damage in the adult years. This may cause low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Some may feel lost in a society where they feel they don’t fit in.
Child rearing can influence adulthood and certain characteristics can be passed on to the next generation. The environment including having a safe home has major effects on how this child will develop. Many cases show that poverty is hereditary. Race is still a problem for a lot of people who discriminate and are stigmatized by a person’s heritage. In Canada, the aboriginal community has not been supported by society as a unique and important culture. Many have been lost and forgotten by the rest of society. Suicides, addiction, poverty and homelessness are a common scenario for a lot of aboriginal people.
Racism is still a factor in Canada. Very little support has been offered to change the situation. Only 2.8% of the population of the Capital Region District is aboriginal, but they have some of the highest reported numbers relating to social concerns. Equal opportunity is not the case when you are aboriginal; lack of affordable secondary education, housing and childcare are some factors affecting their ability to break out of the cycle.
This has left many mental and emotional scars for these people. Many fall through the cracks of society. Without proper support, this trend will continue for generations. Special attention must be taken to ensure that all people are treated equally and with respect.
This same respect for all races, gender and sexual preference must be upheld. Discrimination does much more than hurt feelings; it destroys self-esteem and confidence that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. It can destroy whole communities, such as it already has.
This is something that you can’t just shrug off. This is very serious and it takes a lot of time and support too identify and correct the problem. Many do no not have any support at all and resort to drugs or alcohol for relief.
73% of the homeless are from B.C. The surveyed failed to report how many have made the boat trip from Vancouver due to the massive clean-up there. Through recent research, it showed that a fair number have moved here because of the existing supports in place in Victoria. Vancouver is facing massive evictions preparing for the Winter Olympics in 2010.
Property owners are selling off their properties for massive profits, putting many people on the street. Evictions are taking place so that owners can turn these buildings into high cost condos.
The housing situation is critical and people are coming here. The survey reports that only 11% are transients from out of province. 69% of the homeless are situated in Victoria with 6.8% in Saanich, 3% in Esquimalt and 1% in Oak Bay.
Almost half of those surveyed said they use drugs or alcohol. 55% of those reported sleeping on the street as compared to the 28% non-users. 15% reporting drug and alcohol use stayed at the hospital compared to the 3% non-users. 14% of those reported having used drugs or alcohol stayed in jail compared to the 3% non-users. 34% of drug and alcohol users reported discrimination compared to the 25% non-users.
As the system is currently run, you don’t have to be free of mental health problems to receive treatment for addiction. On the other hand, if you do want treatment for mental illness you must be drug and alcohol free. Psychiatrists will not waste energy and time on a patient who is influenced by drugs or alcohol. The prescribed medications would not have any affect on your mood if you are using.
14% of those surveyed said they would use detox services. One service provider stated that many do not consider this an option, for the hurdles one needs to jump to get in are near impossible. It is estimated that there are 1,500 to 2,000 injection drug users in the Capital Region and 600 to 800 crystal methamphetamine users. 53% of injection drug users have unstable housing.
The majority of injection drug users are between the ages of 30 and 49 years old. 49% reported being 19 years old or less the first time they injected. 15 to 20% of injection drug users are Aboriginal. This is quite high since they only make up 2.8% of the population. 45% of injection drug users reported being on social assistance in the last six months. 30% said they injected in the streets in the past six months, and 6.7% reported injecting at least once in prison in the last 6 months. 45% inject in their homes, 14% in someone else’s home, 7% in a hotel, shelter or squat, and 3% in cars or public washrooms.
72% said they would use a safe injection site if it was made available. 17% of injection drug users have HIV, and 74% have Hepatitis C, and close to 25% did not know that they were infected.
A committee stated that it is a myth that most of our homeless population is mentally ill and/or addicted. After crunching a few numbers, I found out that 60% of our homeless do have one of these conditions or both. They are trying to quiet the public’s anxiety about this problem. Their statement has been proven to be misleading to the community it serves.
If this is any indication of the city’s plan to place and support these people, I have great concerns for those who will be placed in homes. So far, my study has not shown what type of support will be administered. The plan is there, but action is slow. Again, mental illness and addiction is being overlooked.
Another black mark is the proposed relocation of the needle exchange site which is kitty corner to a Catholic school. It is said that the same problems they had at the other location will not be a concern here. They said there would be added police patrols. Again, they are treating a medical problem with guns and batons. It seems that the message is still not sinking in. Dr. Keith Martin believes that we must change the focus of how we deal with mental illness and/or addiction. It has to be treated medically. The United States are failing in their war on drugs and we are still not paying attention.
The city has seen these numbers, yet these medical conditions are not being treated as such. This is only speculation, but I believe that this action is only being taken for economic gain only. It seems that this big push to clean the streets is for the tourists and their wallets, and not for humanity. How far is the city willing to go to provide support after placing these people in homes? Is this support going to be in the form of medicine or police patrols?
We all know that “wet” housing does not work. It just relocates downtown’s problem to someone else’s neighborhood. There is still loitering, emergency calls, vandalism and drugs. They will still go downtown to score their drugs and most probably use on the streets anyway. Just housing these people is not enough if the proper support is not provided.
One on one support is needed to teach life skills, accompany them to appointments, court dates and support groups. We have to ensure that drug and alcohol programs are being utilized through counseling and medical monitoring if available. There is the need to learn how to re-enter society as a respected member. They have to learn to respect themselves and others. The list goes on. Many lost their souls on the street and have to learn how to gain confidence and self-esteem.
Is the city willing to do this or are they washing their hands after the 1,550 people are placed in homes? It has been said that rehabilitation cannot start until they are in homes. Detox and a stay in the stabilization unit prior to placement might improve their chances for recovery. At least, they will be clean when they are in their new home. With continual support, sobriety has a starting point. There are safe houses available for temporary placement until some time in sobriety has passed. This form of treatment works and increases the chances of success.
More police will not cure a medical problem, it won’t even control it. Drugs and alcohol addiction spreads like a cancer. It can be transferred from generation to generation and to the community. Social structure has been destroyed by these substances. This is your problem too.
The Victoria Human Exchange Society is a non-profit organization that provides low income housing to the community. It has several homes in the Capital Region and in Salt Spring Island. These homes are monitored by an on site facilitator. There are rules that the residents must remain sober and be active in their recovery. They must get along in a group setting and learn life skills.
They receive donations from various businesses, organizations and private funds. They have access to furnishings and clothing for those in need. It is a great setting to get back on your feet. Some of the residents are working and just don’t make enough to live on their own, so this works very well for them. This is an excellent way for people just starting out to learn how to adapt to today’s society.
There are various subsidized housing complexes and units already in existence throughout the city. Unfortunately, the waiting list is so long; it may take years before you have a place to go. This is where the government should put our tax dollars. There are existing programs which can be expanded to meet these growing demands. Subsidized housing offered by the province is feasible and realistic. Placing 1,550 people should not be the real problem; it is the people who are using them that generate concern.
Being stoned or drunk may cause complaints from neighboring residents. Some of them have very little regard for their neighbours well-being or safety. We have “wet” houses and units now, and this jeopardizes the neighbourhood’s safety. There may be strange visitors all through the day and night causing disturbance or loitering in halls and stairways. Property damage and vandalism is common for the respect for other people’s property does not exist.
This has to be addressed and the homeless have to be taught that this behaviour will not be tolerated. They have to earn their right to live among society. Street rules do not apply to apartment buildings or supportive housing. The support given must take these factors into consideration.
Apparently, the mayor’s plan is to house first, regardless if they are active on drugs or alcohol is the main goal. They will be offered support, but do not have to be inclined to accept it. So, the main plan is just to clean up the streets at any cost. It is very clear that the streets are a public nuisance to our tourists and the public at large. The city is not happy with the image it is portraying.
“Wet” housing is acceptable, just as long as the downtown core is clear. This is not acceptable in my eyes or that of the general public. Again, the problem is being overlooked. The quick fix strategy is just like what happened to the prostitutes on Government Street. The city revamped the area and the prostitutes just moved to Rock Bay. It never solved the problem; it just moved the problem to another location.
With this “wet” housing, they will still come downtown to score and likely use in the same “hotspots” as before. It is sad that very little will change in the downtown core. We will still have 1,500 to 2,000 injection drug users; the only difference is that they have a permanent address. We will still have 600 to 800 crystal methamphetamine users. They are not going to accept an offer of support, with their addiction controlling every moment of life.
As suspected, the city is not willing to go the extra mile to address the real problems causing homelessness in Victoria, B.C. They do have an action plan which I will unveil, but this is only an offer. The new residents can deny support and continue with their addiction as they always have.
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