By James Breckenridge. It is said that a camel is a horse made by a committee.
If only Abbotsford’s Homeless Task Force’s Report came that close to reflecting the state of affairs in Abbotsford, the lower mainland and throughout BC of homelessness and the government ministries that impact upon homelessness in British Columbia.
Unfortunately for the Homeless-in-Abbotsford, the Task Force made a duck-billed platypus.
The Report fails to consider the current and future state of resources available to address homelessness and the related issues that impact homelessness such as mental health.
The report is built on the false foundation of assuming that the resources called for by the report will be found, ignoring budget and financial reality that has not simply imposed limits on resources but has imposed reductions on the resources available.
The provincial budget for the current fiscal year and the budget projections over five years make it clear that the actual resources available will dwindle year by year.
Planning Based On False Assumptions
The question is NOT are we spending more dollars this fiscal year BUT what % increase is needed to purchase the same resources this fiscal year as were purchased in the prior fiscal year.
If the increase in spending does not meet or exceed the % increase needed [as was the case in recent years, is the case in the current year and is the case in the future budget projections] you have a decrease in resources.
Planning based on false assumptions about resources not only results in a plan that is worthless, but can lead to wasting resources to accomplish little or nothing; resources that could have been used elsewhere to good effect.
The Task Force’s call for City Council to immediately create a staff coordinator position for homelessness is such a waste.
The idea of the staff coordinator stems from the notable career of Judy Graves as Vancouver’s homeless advocate. Ms. Graves could make contact with a homeless person, find them housing and connect them to the services the homeless person needed in a single day.
When Ms. Graves spoke to the Task Force this summer, she noted that the effectiveness of the outreach teams in Vancouver had suffered serious negative consequences as a result of the scarcity of resources in Vancouver and the competition between the teams for those scarce resources.
Scarce resources no longer permit finding housing and connecting a homeless person to the services the homeless person needs in a single day.
It would be better for the homeless in Vancouver to have fewer outreach teams and the money thus saved used to provide resources to house the homeless.
With the limited resources available in Abbotsford such a staff position would give little or no return for the money spent. It would be far more beneficial, in terms of effectively addressing homelessness, to spend the $100,000.00 not on salary but on rental subsidies.
Unless you have abundant resources frittering away resources on shelter beds or a coordinator is a misuse of resources that could be utilized to greater effect elsewhere.
The Task Force also – Ignored? Did not address? Failed to recognize? – that finding a person housing is quite do able … the person managing to stay in that housing … well, there is the rub as they say.
Someone commented to me recently that he couldn’t understand why Mr. X had been homeless until recently housed.
Ignoring Services, Reources
What the statement ignores is that Mr. X was homeless after falling out of the housing he was in. And that before he was in the housing he was in when he became homeless … he was homeless, having fallen out of the housing he had been in prior to becoming homeless once again … And that before he was in the housing he was in when he became homeless that time….he was homeless, having fallen out of the housing he had been in prior to becoming homeless once again … And that before he was in the housing he was in when he became homeless … he was homeless, having fallen out of the housing he had been in prior to becoming homeless again … And that before he was in the housing he was in when he became homeless … he was homeless, having fallen out of the housing he had been in prior to becoming homeless once again … and so on and so on.
Success or failure in housing the homeless lies in the services and supports that provide the opportunity for an individual to do the work to accomplish the change in themselves needed to achieve wellness and sustain housing.
The form and content of the report, intentionally or not, fosters a sense of complacency, – no problem, we have it covered – and promotes rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – as the rising levels of homelessness threaten to overwhelm us.
“If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision, and courage. These things are rarely produced by committees.” – Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.