Hello world, welcome to the Free Lance Friday ‘Special’ Edition. I have some exciting developments to report for the Good News Journal today, as it would appear the city of Ottawa is having a change of Heart regarding their decision to approve a 350 bed mega-shelter owned and operated by the Salvation Army.
We all know I don’t believe in coincidences, so this Good News was particularly appealing to Me. The article was published by the CBC on ‘Lucky’ Wednesday, June 12th, which is also encouraging. This has nothing to do with My complaint with the city of Ottawa regarding the current Salvation Army Booth Center shelter complex… Or does it?
The Truth is, it has absolutely nothing to do with My application to the Divisional Court regarding the deplorable shelter conditions and treatment of clients by shelter operator, Jason Prevost – at least, not directly. However, the ‘rumour’ is that the city of Ottawa mayor, Jim Watson, never wanted the shelter in the first place. The mayor had been elected on promises to end homelessness in the city of Ottawa within ten years by implementing a ‘Housing First’ program.
Rumour has it the ‘corporate power’ of the Salvation Army and lobbyists for the proposed mega shelter are too powerful a force to contend with and likely bribed city council members to get the proposal approved. There is absolutely nothing to substantiate the rumour, aside from the fact that a gung-ho mayor rallying for funds to get Ottawa’s homeless off the streets and into suitable housing, suddenly changed his tune without any explanation as to why. One could argue that once council voted to approve the mega shelter there was no point advocating for the Housing First program, but that doesn’t really make any sense. Even if the mega-shelter was approved, if the mayor were successful in ending homelessness in the city within his ten year timeline, the mega shelter would be forced to close it’s doors as they would no longer be eligible for city funding if there are no more People requiring emergency shelter services.
The other reason this development is particularly interesting, is because it’s the Housing Services branch that ‘approves’ the [Salvation Army] shelter’s funding, and is tasked with ensuring the shelter act in compliance with all municipal, provincial and federal legislation – the same organization tasked with investigating My complaint with the city regarding the shelter conditions. Housing Services is also responsible for setting up the [new] ‘Housing First’ model, which is a conflict of interest. You can’t end homelessness and approve the need for shelter funding at the same time. If Housing Services was truly motivated to get Ottawa’s homeless off the streets, they would (or should) be thrilled to hear that the Salvation Army has been in violation of their contractual agreements, as the Salvation Army are liable to the city for any injury or harm sustained by their clients. It would be an excuse to redirect city funds currently going to the shelter into the Housing First program. Any city mayor determined to end homelessness would jump on this opportunity, especially if he/she knew the liability insurance the Salvation Army was required to have in order to provide emergency shelter services.
Another interesting detail to point out, is that the Housing First model was tried in Medicine Hat Alberta, and the program successfully ended the city’s homelessness crisis. Two years later, the city has maintained an almost zero homelessness rate, and You can check out the CBC’s article on how it was done, here. The city still needs emergency shelters (I have a plan for that, too – but one thing at a time), but People are only subject to homelessness for a very short time, usually days, weeks at the most. In Ottawa, an individual must be homeless for a period of at least 180 days (6 months) in order to qualify for the ‘Housing First’ program. It makes absolutely no sense – unless of course, Housing Services has been bought out by Salvation Army private interests, ensuring business for at least a six month period before allowing individuals to receive the financial supports they require to improve their situation. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that there are some perverse incentives to keep Ottawa’s homeless in shelters, and there is only one institution that stands to benefit from this policy – the emergency shelters.
When these things are taken into account, the motives of Housing Services to disregard complaints from clients or the adverse conditions they are subject to at the hand of shelter operators become crystal clear.
Come on Jim Watson, let’s put these puzzle pieces together and redirect the city’s funds into a Housing First program that actually benefits the People, the city, and virtually guarantees Your re-election.
I’ll be back tomorrow with My next installment of the Tarot and ‘Living a Purpose Full Life’.
Love and Blessings,