Homelessness Begets Homelessness

Stay Safe

The cycle continues

Written by Chaz Smith

I am increasingly worried about the future of our friends experiencing homelessness. With current Covid environments that could have hosted things like domestic abuse, with some minorities suffering, and the increased sales of substances like alcohol, we may have an environment that spells disaster. When looking ahead at this climate brewing I had hoped by now we had hotels for everyone experiencing homelessness. Perhaps even other solutions like rent banks could have helped. Additionally the Coronavirus is still not over.

Hidden Abuse

domestic abuse

Many individuals who have been trapped at home may be victims of abuse. These people, perhaps women, may want to flee when things settle down. With all women shelters often always full the fate of ending up in emergency shelters could spell future homelessness to come. How many days can you sleep in a room with hundreds of people snoring, coughing, sneezing; not being able to sleep. Before you develop an anxiety or depression that may turn to a bottle or other substances to self medicate? How long can you live undignified with no pillow or blanket and lay on the floor before you start to believe the stigmas associated with homelessness? How long before you yourself loose hope. I have seen this fear on people’s faces.

Increased Substance Consumption

substance abuse.

My friends who work at liquor stores have said they have been selling more liquor than ever before. I additionally note others partaking more than were previously. Sometimes alcohol is self medicating to cope with stress. It can be hard being at home all day when one was used to working. Alcohol is a highly addictive substance. Substance misuse leads to increased mental health and can result in job loss that ultimately can lead to homelessness. With no money to pay bills. I recall many of my clients saying exactly that. They had worked their whole life and when the economy shifted they ended up homeless. With the current climate of emergency shelters it may be that homelessness begets more homelessness. We should allow people dignity and a bed to sleep in at night. Let them have independence and dignity as they attempt to rediscover sobriety. A possible solution of prevention is a rent bank to pay rent or other bills in the mean time. We all make mistakes and it’s important we have supports to get through that. We should do better than hosting these environments that agitate and contribute to our struggles; And while staff do the best they can, emergency shelters are not safe places.

Hiding in Fear

LGBTQ Youth hiding in fear.

We still have LGBTQ+ youth hiding their identities in their homes. Possibly after the 6 weeks of torment hiding in their rooms may just be ready to head out into this world. Perhaps they are 18 now and will end up at one of these adult shelters. With no bed and a potent for no blankets, and no pillow. Maybe that environment, at least, would feel more free? I wonder now who would protect them from falling prey to the louder cases of trauma that could be awaiting them at these places? With no place to hide, no room to go back to, most independence stripped, the dignity of choice you and I get, how will that play out?

A Generation To Be Rediscovered
Homeless needs beds, pillows, and blankets.

I recognize these places have some beautiful people in them. I recognize there are some stars of staff shining like beacons of hope. I respect and commend them. With the environments being hosted potentially so toxic how long before they too become traumatized? Who then will be their light?

We could have created “homeless hotels” with support staff. We could have given everyone a safe space to socially distance. We could have allowed people physical spacing. It is a miracle this population is not more severely affected. We should thank God! We could have given humans what I believe to be inherent human dignity, a bed, a pillow, a blanket. A safe place to hide; shelter. This would have promoted a security of the persons. I often take time to tune out the world, with my TV. I appreciate having a phone to call a friend to benefit my mental health. I LOVE having a nice hot shower. All things we could have given with hotels and yet not freely available at emergency shelters. Although this may not have solved all of the problem at least it would have created an environment where minds could have looked further at the real problem. We could have allowed bodies to physically calm from survival mode allowing the mind to start looking inwards. This could have been a great start to a mass healing. A generation needing to be rediscovered.

Better Solutions

With the potential of another wave coming we still have not done all that we can. Additional cases in this population, most recently, mounting. We also know things like substance misuse weakens immune systems. Chronic stress dampens our natural immune response. Coupled with a lack of sleep and nutrition additionally adds to that biological torment. We know people experiencing homelessness are at a much higher risk.

With a virus on the loose. With a potential climate brewing of domestic abuses at home. With substance misuse increasing. With the ashamed young LGBTQ+ hiding in their closeted home. We could have created an environment that promoted healing and prevented future homelessness to come. We could have rejected the atmosphere of despair and promoted hope. I know looking forward I wanted hotels because I knew this all spelled a potential disaster. Hindsight will be 2020 for those of you that did not see this coming. Those of you that did and fought for housing amen to you all! Perhaps a rent bank additionally to pay damage deposit and rent could also be considered. And even so an emergency shelter hotel would have allowed an inherent human dignity in the mean time; a safe place to lay their head. I understand that these situations are not ideal. I understand many are doing the best they can. All I am saying is, we can do better. We should do better. So I am pleading with you all to please do.

Sincerely,
Your friend and an advocate for those experiencing homelessness.

Chaz Smith
President & CEO
BeTheChangeYYC Street Outreach