Ontario is having municipal elections this year. I read this article this morning about one of the leading candidates in Toronto, Rob Ford. While I’m not sure who I’m going cast my vote for yet, I can’t say I’m a big fan of Ford. His general platform seems to be of the ‘cut taxes, cut services’ variety, and to be frank, he seems like a real blowhard. Not exactly my style.
I bring this up because I think the article does a good job highlighting some of the challenges that come up time and again when trying to fund social programs. We know (or most people in social services know anyway) that things like poverty, addiction and homelessness are difficult issues to address. Positive change will only come from systemic changes in supports, programs, and people’s attitudes.
It may be very easy for Ford to rail against thousands of dollars being spent on cigarettes and “to give free wine to homeless people” but it is short sighted, and it definitely doesn’t tell the whole story. He gives a line similar to what we hear from those who oppose things like harm reduction, safe injection sites and the special diet allowance (an issue which Ford has also had his say on, and really made a mess)
I’m reminded of many stories, but one in particular of a woman I helped support when I was working on a homeless outreach program. She had been chronically homeless, had schizophrenia, diabetes, and crack addiction. Naturally, she had a long back story that I won’t go into here. After she stabilized somewhat during a lengthy shelter stay, we were able to find her suitable housing. The trick was making sure she got her injection of medication every two weeks so she stayed well enough to maintain that housing. The only way our nurse could guarantee to see her every two weeks was to bring her a coffee and a pack of cigarettes. Now surely this was cheaper than paying for her to be in a shelter, hospital, or detox clinic all the time? Surely this helped her to live a better quality of life!
I really wish some people would take the time to look at the whole picture.