Agree or Disagree: It is possible to completely end homelessness.

I’m sure  in certain areas of your own city downtown and surrounding area, there likely is an area some would recommend that you avoid.

You know the ones. They have a reputation. A group appearing to be an unseemly sort. Unkept. Unclean. Unwashed.

In some cities, they have been pushed away. In an attempt to clean up an area, there have been “revitalization projects”. To attract new businesses and new ideas, there has been an attempt to change the culture of the Unkept, Unclean, and Unwashed. However, while the “revitalization projects”go into full swing, it seems that the Unkept, Unclean and Unwashed have been done with.

The only thing is, they just went to a different area.

In Calgary, where I live, there’s a project  that the Calgary Homeless Foundation has been in the midst. It’s the 10 year plan to end homelessness.

It started in 2008, and it is expected to end in 2018. They have 3 phases. The first phase is from 2008-2010 in which the plan was to develop a better understanding. The second phase of the plan in which we are currently in from 2011-2014 is to build a homeless-serving systems to end homeless. They have identified 4 key strategies. They are prevention and rehousing, housing, data and research, and the non-profit sector. And the plan for 2015-2018 is to develop a sustainable plan and transition into community leadership.

Now how the project is going, the success of this idea might be debated by some. You can have a look at this to see their ideas. I would say that I think it has been understated the tremendous amount of time and effort many in the front line of homeless shelters have given. Whether they be case workers, front line workers or the countless volunteers that have given their time, I think they should be thanked much more than they are.

Last Monday, I happened to attend a panel discussion that was put on by the Centre for Christian Thought. There were opening remarks from Deputy Mayor Gail Macleod. The discussion lead to three factors to look at homelessness. Dr, John Rook the CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation discussed homelessness as a social problem. John Bodman, who was homeless for years, looked at it from a personal problem. And Bishop Fred Henry looked at the spiritual problem of homelessness.

There was some very important issues discussed. Dignity. Addiction. Mental Illness The impact on smoking laws and recycling. Our responsibility to the homeless. And they are key issues to what we are dealing with. 

But there is so much more.

The more I think about it, it seems to me that it comes down to how we look at that group of the Unwashed, Unclean and Unkept. Because very clearly, there are many ways to look at this. Some of you may respond with some of these questions like.

How can you live in a city like Calgary and not have a job?

Why should I give any of my spare change to a homeless person? It’s going to go to booze and drugs anyway.

Where is your family? Don’t you have any education?

And some might respond with questions like these.

“Did you know he was a smart guy? He has a business. He put his trust in someone and they took off with everything.

Did you know that there is a huge population of working poor? Did you also know that if you don’t have a fixed address, you can’t have a job?

And one I deal with on a regular basis.

It is very tough as an adult learner to get the education that some desire. Yes, there is Continuing Education classes you can take. However, in many disciplines it is simply not possible to take courses part time. Some of the programs are designed in a way where it can only be taken full time. In some cases, it includes a practicum. Which might be unpaid. And if you are an adult that is established, this can be very discouraging. 

What about funding for education? Great question. It is somewhat limited depending on what you are taking. There is government funding for one year Certificates, but not for any higher forms of education. And you and I both know who a company will hire.

The point being is that I think there are very important questions that have been asked. And there are some real frustrations in dealing  with this as well. And they are all fair.

But, if you think it is even possible to end homelessness, then I think it’s going to take a culture shift. And a shift in our mindset

But, what do you think?