2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

I haven’t added anything new, but still had 7,100 visitors. Guess I better get back to it. But very busy over at phoneworthy.blogspot.com and near to launching speedmobile.ca

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Social media activist – Mark Horvath – puts a face on Canadian homelessness.

For immediate release – press release: Calgary Homeless Foundation, Community Action Committee
(Toronto, ON; August 12) Heading into Toronto August 19 – 22, Cross-country Invisiblepeople.tv Roadtrip gains momentum as formerly homeless man & renowned social media activist, Mark Horvath, puts a face on Canadian homelessness.

Ever doubt the power of social media to make true change? Let us introduce you to Mark Horvath, Huffington Post blogger, @hardlynormal on Twitter and founder of invisiblepeople.tv. Mark puts power into the hands of Canada’s most vulnerable people: those experiencing homelessness. By giving individuals a voice, he is building awareness and support to end homelessness.

Mark, once homeless himself, understands the issue. He is midway through the Invisiblepeople.tv cross-Canada Roadtrip coordinated by The Community Action Committee (CAC) and the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF). Socially-responsible companies General Motors, Petro-Canada, Virgin Mobile Canada, Hanes and Delta Hotels are sponsoring Mark as he gathers and posts these real, raw and unforgettable stories on: http://www.invisiblepeople.tv with mainstream media networks demonstrating the value of his message.

 We’re exposing the un-natural disaster of homelessness in Canada through the personal stories of those experiencing it.” said Tim Richter, President and CEO of the CHF “As Canadians see their homeless neighbours through Mark’s lens, they are compelled to act and join the growing number of Canadian communities committed to ending homelessness.

“The power of social media is that we associate names, faces and stories with homeless individuals.” said Barry Davidson, Chair of the CAC. “Canadians are listening and communities are galvanizing to take action to end homelessness.”

Roadtrip Stops

City Date City Date
Victoria July 5-6 Regina August 5-6
Vancouver July 7-10 Winnipeg August 8-9
Kelowna July 12 Thunder Bay August 11
Calgary July 14-16 Sault Ste Marie August 13
Red Deer July 17 Toronto August 19-22
Edmonton July 18-19 Ottawa August 28-30
Whitehorse July 21-22 Montreal September 1-3
Yellowknife July 24-26 Fredericton September 5-6
Fort McMurray July 28 Halifax September 8-9,14
Edmonton July 30-31 St. John’s September 11-12
Saskatoon August 2-3

**dates subject to change. Visit http://www.calgaryhomeless.com/cac for the most up-to-date schedule.

How can you help?

  • Spread the word, post stories on Facebook and Twitter, try & gain as much attention as you can.
  • Welcome him to your city and provide him with a tour of where homeless people stay.
  • Speak to your media friends and help get the problem noticed.
  • Follow Mark’s journey on Twitter @hardlynormal.
  • Help build support for 10 Year Plans and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Contact: Sean French, Community Action Committee

sean@calgaryhomeless.com  Twitter – @seanfrench1

About Mark Horvath

Follow Mark’s journey on www.invisiblepeople.tv, a site that shares unedited, uncensored and raw interview footage. Go to www.wearevisible.com, a site that gives people dealing with poverty and homelessness the tools to go online and have a voice.  Follow his journey on Twitter @hardlynormal, with almost 13,000 followers. Mark was featured on CTV Canada AM, CBC Connect with Mark Kelley, The Roy Green Show, CNN, CBS, L.A. Times, Mashable.com and NPR. InvisiblePeople.tv has 2.5 million video views on Youtube alone with an average of 50,000 views per month.

10 Year Plan

From 1994 to 2006, Calgary had Canada’s fastest growing population of people experiencing homelessness, culminating with nearly 3,500 people sleeping in shelters. In 2007, the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness was formed to create a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. In January 2008, Calgary became the first city in Canada to have a Plan that committed the community to end homelessness. This tour supports the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s goal to create a Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. To date over 2300 individuals have been housed with support.

The Community Action Committee

This Committee is the voice of community and works at the policy level, providing real-time information to coordinate the efforts of agencies, government and funders. With more than 100 member organizations that plan, deliver, evaluate and assess the services needed to end homelessness in Calgary, members work directly to help people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. For more information about the CAC or the invisible people Canadian road trip visit www.calgaryhomeless.com/cac.

 

Media inquiries, homeless serving agency inquiries and sponsorship inquiries can be directed to:

Sean FrenchCommunity Action Committeesean@calgaryhomeless.com@seanfrench1

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.

Red Cross Red Crescent refugee relief in Tunisia and Libya

IMG_4505

Via the IFRC Flickr photostream –

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is working tirelessly at the border of Tunisia and Libya providing shelter and basic relief to tens of thousands of refugees from the civil war in Libya.  Gadaffi is systematically waging war on his own people seeking democratic freedoms and has been charged by the UN with crimes against humanity.

Volunteer work is not often glamorous as William Carter, IFRC WatSan delegate, can tell you – seen here resting after digging latrines in the Tunisian desert for a Red Crescent refugee camp.

via @canayjun on Twitter

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Homeless, Why homeless?

Homelessness – not simply defined as “absolutely without shelter” or “the chronically homeless” – is a plague on our society, sapping the health of our communities.

homelessness homeless #whyhomeless

home-less


There’s been a hiatus here at the MissionLog as I’ve transitioned from a full time outreach worker to the homeless with Project417  back to a more traditional career as a phone guy in the telecommunications industry. Reasons?  Ask me offline – but at the core is a realization that volunteerism and community development is driven by ordinary people working ordinary jobs who have the desire, opportunity and ability to give back.  And I’m about as ordinary as they come. I’m tired of homeless friends who die without hope of ever having a home again.

I still have a vision:  to definitively identify the root cause of homelessness and find the cure.  Homelessness is not a poverty issue. It’s not simple economics, nor is it a self-inflicted wound.  It is complex. It is pervasive.

So I’m working towards that end by founding The Whyhomeless Movement – a grassroots campaign to really help the homeless. This can’t be left to governments. It’s our city, our community, our village.  Joining the WhyHomeless Movement is easy. Start by visiting Twitter and tweeting homelessness issues with the #whyhomeless hashtag. Search for people who are making a difference and tweet their story.  Tweet out and re-tweet links to sites on the web that make a difference in the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness.  Follow me at – http://twitter.com/canayjun and let me know you’ve joined the WhyHomeless Movement.

What do you think is the root cause of homelessness? Part 5

Visit Part 1 of the series at this short url –

http://tinyurl.com/whyhomeless

In my last post I said:

We need to re-visit the issue of the root causes of homelessness and use our findings to publicly articulate an actionable plan to reduce homelessness. We need to wrest control of the issues from interest groups and some activist organizations which, in my opinion, have co-opted the true needs of our homeless friends. We need to make recommendations that can be life changing and give hope to our entire community.

NA_helps

Naturally, this has garnered a fair level of criticism from some existing homeless service providers.  I ask once again that people who are working so tirelessly to improve the lives of our homeless friends not view the ongoing quest to redefine the root causes of homelessness as an indictment – our goal is to identify major risk factors before people become homeless and to do this we must move out of the realm of considering homelessness primarily as a poverty issue.  This can only strengthen existing homeless services.  In contrast to “housing first” based efforts, as a grassroots program Project417’s #whyhomeless movement will be a people centered community development effort.

We’re not alone in our search to re-define homeless services. Alan Graham, founder and president of Mobile Loaves and Fishes in Austin, Texas recently announced a groundbreaking program to survey the homeless themselves to determine their critical needs.  He posted this startling declaration:

ISSUE:  Despite decades of heart-felt attempts at finding solutions, millions of dollars and countless hours of effort, the homeless services system in the United States is officially broken. There are few, if any, large, transformational, paradigm-shifting programs that are effectively, productively and permanently moving homeless people off of the streets and into meaningful and purposeful solutions. Many services are tiny band-aids on a gaping and gushing wound: one meal for a person who doesn’t have a regular source of nutrition, one counseling service with no continuation of care, one night of shelter in a public, crowded facility. In August 2009 an Austin collaboration will be conducting a landmark survey of the area homeless population. The goal is to better understand the needs of the chronically homeless, in hopes of creating transformational change. The results of this survey will be the foundation for a full day educational and community action symposium in March 2010. [in Austin, Texas]

At Project417 we believe that people have priority over money, structures, systems and other institutions.  At Project417, a program of Ekklesia Inner City Ministries,  our Executive Director,  Rev. Joe Elkerton has a long history of ministering to and advocating for the homeless in Toronto going back over twenty years. He promotes a vision of people centered community development.  From the Project417 mission statement on our website:

Our definition of development is –

“people in community engaging in a spiritual, social, physical, economic and political process of positive transformation towards a sustainable future”.

People centered development focuses on the well being of people and their living system while promoting the worth and dignity of all human beings. It therefore encompasses value change, popular participation, human resource development, gender issues, appropriate technology, children’s issues and sustainability.

People centered development “emphasizes the process of development and its essential focus on personal and institutional capacity”. It also rejects the notion of experts, asserting instead that no one is outside of the development process and that each person has something to contribute as sell as something to learn.

People centered development seeks the active involvement of all stakeholders in every stage of the development process. It affirms the worth and contribution of every community member. It promotes transparency, justice and equity, asserting that the first priority in resource allocation should be the achievement of community objectives related to the satisfaction of the basic needs of all community members”.

In my last post, I invited any and all who are interested in resolving homelessness in our communities to join a “taskforce” to determine the root cause of homelessness with the purpose to prevent, treat and heal homelessness.  More correctly it should not yet be referred to as a taskforce because the root issues are not yet defined, so specific tasks can’t be assigned. We need innovative problem solving techniques to be applied in an environment that fosters freedom of thought and unity of purpose. We, like Mobile Loaves and Fishes , need to remember the most important stakeholders in this process – the homeless men, women and children themselves.

everywhere

You can be a valuable part of this process. Join the #whyhomeless movement. Submit a comment here. Re-post this on your blog, share it on Facebook.  Email a link to your friends, post it on Digg or Reddit. Visit Twitter and connect with me @canayjun or other friends like @MLFNOW , @_CSM_ , @joeelkerton or @invisiblepeople.  Tweet homelessness issues to the world on Twitter and include the tag #whyhomeless so we can track the movement.

Come back and visit the blog here for the next post in this series.

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What do you think is the root cause of homelessness? – Part 4

Visit Part 1 of the series at this short url –

http://tinyurl.com/whyhomeless

A Call to Action:

In Parts 1 to 3 of the series, we have investigated the root cause of homelessness.  I mentioned the need to decide upon a definition of homelessness.  I’d like to postpone that for a short time because there is a window of opportunity right now to impact homelessness services that requires a call to action.  There is an excellent article on defining “homelessness” by Lyne Casavant, of the Political and Social Affairs Division, Government of Canada,  from January 1999 at “Definition of Homelessness”.

I recently proposed the formation of a task force on the root causes of homelessness in an email to some key stakeholders here in Canada, because as I have said –

the issue of affordable housing does not sufficiently capture the underlying “root” cause of homelessness

My message was addressed to the members of the EFC Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness – advocates in their own right representing several organizations devoted to helping the homeless. I also included Joe Elkerton, our Executive Director at Project417 and several other stakeholders, friends and community members with a heart for the homeless. The text of that message follows –

city of angels

“Some of you I have met and had a chance to discuss the challenges in ministering to the homeless.  I’ve been with Joe Elkerton at Project417 – Ekklesia Inner City Ministries for more than five years – my position there is 100% faith based and I was commissioned to this work with the homeless by my home church,  Mississauga Chinese Baptist Church.  Primarily I work out on the streets of Toronto year round in what we call “sandwich runs” to the homeless with over 2,000 volunteers every year. I’m currently engaged in a process that is exploring the root causes of homelessness – in a series of posts at my blog  (quicklink http://tinyurl.com/whyhomeless )  and I would appreciate your comments and input.

More –  in keeping with the spirit of the Ottawa manifesto, I would suggest that now is the time to –

“…SPEAK on [the homeless’] behalf when their own voices are not heard, and support them in speaking for themselves, to the end that Canadian churches, governments, media and businesses would make the substantial reduction of homelessness, poverty and their root causes a high priority”.

I know that each of you works tirelessly for the homeless both in your respective organizations and as members of the EFC roundtable – don’t consider it an indictment when I say that we have not yet done enough for our homeless friends. Consider it a call to action or a call to arms:

” — Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon… Neh. 4:17

We need to re-visit the issue of the root causes of homelessness and use our findings to publicly articulate an actionable plan to reduce homelessness. We need to wrest control of the issues from interest groups and some activist organizations which, in my opinion, have co-opted the true needs of our homeless friends. We need to make recommendations that can be life changing and give hope to our entire community. We all suffer the effects of homelessness in our society.  One of our friends, Bob Buckley,  has said recently in his blog The Pathway to Hope –

“Our society in it’s desire to help the brokenhearted,  is part of the problem. We provide enough care to maintain a level of survival that I would call the living dead”.

All of us when pressed admit the root causes of homelessness are complex, but complexity is not impossible to fathom. We all know the simple straight-forward answers most people give for homelessness –

# Alcohol and drug abuse, addictions
# Loss of a job, the economy, bankruptcy
# Family problems and break-ups
# Lack of education – not being qualified for well paying job
# Poor judgment, making bad choices and laziness
# Choice – some people just choose to be homeless
# Mental illness
# Physical disability
# Abuse in the home – youth runaways
# Violence against women


To these are most often added
a key element – the lack of affordable housing.  Housing has become the clarion call for many homeless service organizations across Canada and the United States and for some time, I too thought that was the key, (or adequate housing to use the UN definition in which affordability is but one factor).  But we all know that it is still not so simple.  All of the homeless must be missing one thing in common, like lacking the anti-bodies to fight a disease. I often tell my volunteers they are missing just one person who cares. Love is the missing ingredient.  And our Christian community is called by Christ to be the people who love other people.  We have the Author of love as our example. God IS love. We are called by love its very self to love both our neighbours and our enemies.

How then is this “lack of love” manifested in people before they become homeless – because that is what we must address. We are all very skilled at loving the homeless after the fact. It is this realization that suggests that homelessness is not primarily a poverty issue. Here in Canada at least, it is not primarily the poor that are becoming homeless.  Homelessness visits every strata of our society, rich and poor.  The poverty-centric disaster relief and healing services must continue – we can do no less.  But we must take the next steps in the fight against homelessness – just as with heart disease or diabetes – Prevention and search for the cure.

Many of you have already said as much, although in different words. Greg Paul writes on the EFC website –

Although these “reasons” are some of the huge problems to be addressed if my friends are ever to find homes, these aren’t the root cause why they have ended up living on the street. Experiences of significant and repeated physical and/or sexual abuse—which many studies correlate with roughly 85 percent of homeless youth—now that gets a little closer to the bone…

Joe Elkerton has discussed with me the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – displayed amongst our most chronically homeless street friends, especially of the First Nations,  and how their inner pain triggers the terrible and self-destructive behaviour we witness daily.

A recent study by Dr Stephen Hwang at St. Mike’s reveals that more than one in three of Toronto’s homeless suffered a traumatic brain injury prior to ending up on the streets .

A recent study I became aware of only days ago, by Heather Larkin of the University of Albany – shows the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences – ACE – and homelessness. From her study –

More than 85 percent of the homeless respondents reported having experienced at least one of 10 categories of adverse childhood experiences (ACE). Many (52.4 percent) had experienced more than four categories of traumatic events when growing up. … There is a high ACE prevalence among the homeless people in this study. Individuals with high ACE scores may be more vulnerable to economic downturns and cultural oppression, a person-environment interaction increasing the likelihood of homelessness. Service responses focused on identifying and addressing childhood traumas hold an opportunity for addressing ACEs before they contribute to homelessness.”

I’d suggest a task force be assembled to re-define from the ground up the root causes of homelessness, refine the church’s response, to separate service responses pre- and post-homeless, to help prevent, treat and heal homelessness in our community. You’re all invited.

We really should meet.

<><
Andy Coats
Project417
andyc@project417.com

:: Forward this to anyone you like and re-print it onyour website or blog

:: connect with me on Twitter @canayjun and join the #whyhomeless movement

Acts 3:1-7
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.  And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. NASB

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What do you think is the root cause of homelessness? – Part 3

Homelessness – The Root Causes – Part III

In Part I & Part II,  I have been asking the question – “What do you think is the root cause of homelessness?”  (Join the movement – tweet your answers on Twitter with the tag #whyhomeless).  I pointed out that –

The right to housing is a basic human right defined by the United Nations, ratified and signed by Canada and most other Western nations. And yet,  it is the lack of affordable housing which most suspect to be the leading contributor to homelessness in every town and city in North America where it exists.

Photo - Board of Regents - Dan Bergeron / fauxreel - in Torontoist

Photo - Fatima - Dan Bergeron / fauxreel - in Torontoist

To determine the root cause of homelessness it’s important to investigate the genesis of the single cause most often targetted – the lack of affordable housing – in view of the United Nations covenant. The international agreement is:

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

It includes such basic human rights as – the right to Self-determination, equal rights for men and women,  the right to work,  the right to just and favorable conditions of work,  the right to form and join trade unions,  the right to social security and social insurance,  rights to protection and assistance for the family, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to education, the right to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications…

And –

Article 11 – The right to an adequate standard of living

Which clearly states:
1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing- and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

This right to “adequate housing” is so crucial, that it is the only factor to be extensively defined and in a General Comment to the Covenant, General Comment No. 4 – which  reveals the extensive nature of the protection included under article 11 and elaborates legal interpretations of the right to adequate housing which go far beyond restricted visions of this right as simply a right to shelter. In it, the Committee, which has given more attention to the right to housing than to any other right under the Covenant, states (in part):

“The right to housing, should not be interpreted in a narrower restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over one’s head . . . Rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity”.  The Committee has defined the term “adequate housing” to comprise –

  • security of tenure
  • availability of services
  • affordability
  • habitability
  • accessibility
  • location
  • and cultural adequacy

Affordability is defined such that personal or household financial costs associated with housing should be at such a level that the attainment and satisfaction of other basic needs are not threatened or compromised;  Location so that adequate housing must be in a location which allows access to employment options, health-care services, schools, child-care centres and other social facilities; and cultural adequacy means that the way housing is constructed, the building materials used and the policies supporting these must appropriately enable the expression of cultural identity and diversity of housing.

The states and nations party to this covenant (including Canada) regognize the interdependance of basic rights – ” the full enjoyment of other rights – such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of association (such as for tenants and other community-based groups), the right to freedom of residence and the right to participate in public decision-making – is indispensable if the right to adequate housing is to be realized and maintained by all groups in society” .  Further, rights such as the right to adequate housing in turn are integral to a persons ability to enjoy other basic human rights.

It is important to discuss this in our investigation of the root causes of homelessness – especially in the light of our own government policies – policies, laws and regulations at the municipal, provincial and federal levels can not be in contravention of this covenant. We must hold policy makers and politicians accountable to the rule of law in how our social safety net is put into practice and demand that barriers to the enjoyment of basic human rights are removed. We must be vigilant to ensure that nobody is subjected to discrimination which affects their right to adequate housing.

For example – if we look at the conditions on First Nations reserves and the housing solutions provided there, can we say that our First nations people have access to housing which is affordable and meets the internationally agreed upon standards for location and cultural adequacy?

In the next part I’ll review how the United Nations has helped develop a broad definition of homelessness. Many people do not take the time to define “homelessness” in their policies and programs. If we are to determine root causes then we must use a common definition.

Your comments are needed – share this with as people as possible, on Facebook, Digg, Reddit. If you’re on Twitter, tweet this link and your comments with the new Twitter hashtag #whyhomeless.  Reply to me @canayjun Get the word out.

BE the change!

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