Homelessness Problem Needs More Than Just Affordable Apartments.

January 7th, 2018 · Tell Me What You Really Think Here · Property Management, Rental Property

There are a lot of homeless people in Toronto and because it’s colder than a witches tit outside, the Mayor had to open up the Fort York Armory, to keep the homeless from freezing to death.

The real question remains what are we going to do about the problem of chronic homelessness in Toronto and elsewhere?

Earlier today I read a very good article about Housing First and It’s Impediments, which is a research report for the Calgary Homeless Foundation. They do a pretty interesting analysis of the Streets to Homes programs, which I considered very realistic. They have statistics about the “rehousing events” which means that they get people housing and they don’t pay their rent or get evicted. There is discussion about how 200 clients were housed in a building and they have all mostly been kicked out because of lack of support and they don’t put 200 clients in one building anymore.

There is also talk about how there is virtually no rent geared to income for people who are homeless, there are just no spots and the City of Toronto seems to be reducing spots not increasing housing.

I don’t think any of the issues surrounding homelessness especially chronic homelessness can be addressed without discussing the unpleasant fact that by the time people become homeless, they’ve exhausted their families, their friends, and all other resources. So you are looking at people with very complex issues, such as addiction, mental health, personality disorders, criminality, lack of employability.

While it is true that housing is a core tenet to stability required to deal with some of the other issues, it’s not going to be maintained on it’s own without support. Certain behaviors are not compatible with community living.

We haven’t even discussed poverty yet.

So let me give you an example, I had a condo for rent, I get contacted by a gentleman named Carlos. He says he wants to come see the condo, the rent is $1800. I set an appointment for X time and give my usual instruction to call before and confirm, I get no such call. The next day, I get a call from the building security, Carlos is at the building. It’s not far, I drive over to show the unit. Carlos smells very badly of poo. I’m not really comfortable in the elevator because Carlos is setting off my sketchy as heck instinct in a significant way.

I give Carlos an application, he says he’ll fill it out. I don’t get anything. Then on the 1st of the month Carlos calls me, and says he’s moving into the unit. I’m like no you’re not. You need first & last. Carlos now tells me that he is on Ontario Works. His income is $630 per month.

So as you can see, housing people with these kinds of complex problems is a major challenge. Carlos lacks the basic skills required to get and maintain housing. First he can’t fill out an application, he can’t follow simple instructions and I can’t imagine what his credit score is like, and his income is so low there are virtually no apartments in his price range. And he smells like poo. No one is going to rent to Carlos.

Even if Carlos did have an apartment, chances are that he couldn’t maintain it, and he needs ongoing help for his mental issues. This is what the Streets to Homes statistics revealed. Further any landlords that have participated in Streets to Homes where they have had to evict a tenant isn’t going to really feel like signing up again, are they?

Then there are further issues like the one this Ottawa landlord had. Again there are no life skills supports in place. The city and province have said that they want to “partner” with landlords but only in the context that they want landlord to take their complex homeless people out of the homeless system, so that they cost less money. Not in the way that they want to have a meaningful dialog with landlords about the real risk of housing difficult to house tenants, and the costs when things go wrong. Instead it’s very popular to accuse landlords of discrimination.

Then there is a major problem with our social services in that they are completely and totally inadequate to provide for the essentials of life including shelter. In Toronto, you simply cannot find even the shittiest room for $325 per month which is the allowed amount for Ontario Works for shelter.

There was a time when there was a “moving allowance” for people on ODSP, that has been clawed back. In fact what I have noticed is that people on Ontario Works and ODSP have to be better budgeters than anyone else, which considering the challenges they have that make them unable to work, is a pretty big ask. It’s pretty crazy. What inevitably happens is the same that happens to all of us, there is some type of emergency, and they don’t have credit cards, and they have to pick between rent and food, and they pick food, or the life of their cat, or a tire for their car and they don’t pay the rent… and they can’t recover because there is no leeway, no wiggle room, in their budget.

Anyhow, I can see landlords making a decision to help a homeless person, but with the caveat that their “partners” in this venture are going to support the person. Making sure they are well, they don’t smell like poo, their apartment is cleaned and sorted. These are the types of supports we need. The problem is that all these supports cost money and people might need mental health care, which is another difficult service to access. You need to have great mental health to have the skills to get mental health care.

From what I can see, there needs to be a lot more supportive housing built kind of in the model of an old age home, where people with lower levels of life skills can live in safety with a simple room, dinette, nursing care and cleaning. In the paper one of the workers espoused a desire for some slum lords, who wouldn’t care too much about their clients were up to and not be too picky about cleanliness. I have noticed a really unrealistic trend, where people have champagne dreams on a beer budget. For people who are presently homeless, any place that is not -20 would be an improvement.

Until the province and the city make significant headway towards realistic programs that increase the amount of rent that people on OW can pay, and support people with complex issues, including paying the rent to landlords and continuing to pay the rent for tenant, and dealing with other issues to help landlords deal with ongoing concerns… we will continue to have a severe homeless problem.

Until the city can admit that the homeless are not an ideal tenant pool, and that landlords are not able to solve these issues just by giving people a place to live, then there can be no movement towards a solution. Eviction is traumatic for the landlord & the tenant. Surely avoiding additional trauma is beneficial?

I’ve been a property manager for 20 years and I have tried many times to help people who have housing problems and I mostly live to regret it. Even now I feel really bad just saying it, but it’s my real experience.

I for one cannot wait until some meaningful actions happen.

Eradicate Homelessness – realistic supports.



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