Category Archives: Other Writers


I am on the email list for the City of Refuge. This is from  the new newsletter. I want to say thank you to Jim Burkinshaw for both the excellence of what he wrote and for letting me post it to mt sire.

Well, it’s been awhile since our last newsletter!  Summer holidays and organizing the second annual “Abbotsford Christian Ministry Leaders” breakfast meeting conspired to keep me away from my newsletter duties. Researching the ACS housing proposal has also been an ongoing project and is the topic of this newsletter (it’s timely too since this is ‘Homelessness Action Week’).  I believe that the Christian community can be significantly involved in providing housing for people who have, for one reason or another, lost theirs and are living on our streets.  Abbotsford Community Services has worked hard to put together the following proposal:

What is the proposal?

Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) is proposing  a 21 unit “low barrier” apartment-type building at 2408 Montvue Avenue (on the same property as their existing offices).  This is not a temporary emergency shelter but rather ‘home’ for men who need a hand back up.  The units are self-contained and the men will pay rent.

Who is paying for this?

Our provincial government, through BC Housing, is providing $2.4M in capital funding plus operating funding in the amount of $215,000 annually on an ongoing basis.  ACS has contributed the land at no cost.  If the rezoning application is approved, the City of Abbotsford has provided a road dedication for a portion of Montvue Ave.

What is ‘low barrier’?

Low Barrier is a term used to mean that the residents do not have to be clean and sober before being considered as a tenant.  It will not operate a needle exchange as was once rumoured.

Why not ‘clean and sober’?

Alcohol and/or drugs are part of what led to homelessness in the first place. If we ask men to ‘clean themselves up’ before we offer to help with housing it is possible that in some cases it may make success more difficult; like asking a patient to ‘get better’ before going to see the doctor.  They will however be asked to sit with staff to develop, and commit to, an individualized plan that will help them achieve stability, wellness and independence. (Note: It is definitely possible to help men towards sobriety without providing housing first and abstinence-based methods can certainly be effective as well; housing-first is just one more way that works for some individuals).

Is this a good location?

To get the right combination of funding, programs, support and location is very difficult and any combination will have strengths and weaknesses.  One key is the proximity to ACS and the supervision and services that they will be offering.  ACS has a long history of helping people deal with challenges, getting back on their feet, rejoining their families and the community as healthy, contributing members.

Is the proposed building in the appropriate zoning area? 

This proposal is right on the border of acceptable zoning; if it was on the other side of the street (McDougall) it would no longer be within the ADBA (Abbotsford Downtown Business Association) and C7 zoning area. However, rezoning is applied for on a regular basis by business owners, farmers, developers and home-owners for many reasons; rezoning applications are an intentional tool designed to allow for minor discrepancies or opportunities that the broader, generalized, zoning rules did not foresee when they were put in place (the C7 Zoning by-law was passed 12 years ago).

Will this cause an undue ‘concentration’ of problems in downtown Abbotsford? 

Some business owners are concerned about this; others are not.  However, these men are already on our streets; not all downtown of course but many of them frequent the downtown area and some do sleep in our doorways and back alleys right now.  But this is not just a downtown issue and under this proposal 20 men will no longer be ‘homeless men’;  they will be ‘men with a home’  and will be in the process of re-building their lives.  Studies of areas where this type of housing has been provided clearly show a decrease in criminal activity, hospital emergency room visits and calls to police.  Based on other facilities like this it should provide a positive solution towards reducing homelessness and at the same time protect local businesses.

What was New Westminster’s Experience?

New Westminster had a  similar situation and they were referred to me as an example. I talked to two different businesses in New West; both were in the immediate vicinity of theUnion Gospel Mission drop-in centre and a 23-unit low-barrier apartment operated by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society. Both said that they did not have any significant problems associated with the proximity of low barrier housing in their neighborhoods.  I also contacted the New Westminster Business Improvement Association and was told that they had no complaints from their members (“and we would certainly hear about it if there were!”).  Their spokesperson went on to say that there was a good rapport between businesses and the apartments, that they worked together and that the men from the units kept all of the downtown streets clean (some of the men are paid a modest amount to pick up litter in the downtown area 3 days a week in a program called ‘EyesOnTheStreet’).  Several businesses in the area also donate to the housing organizations.  Andy Bradshaw, President of the New Westminster BIA confirmed the above and added that success will depend on the organization overseeing the housing units as well as the supports and conditions in place.  He said that housing serves as a stepping stone and that many of the men now had jobs and were now part of society.

Isn’t ‘rebuilding your life’ a pretty tough challenge?  What assurance is there that this will happen?

Nothing is guaranteed; but ‘housing- first’ projects like this have been shown to provide the best chance for success.  Once someone is in off the street, safe, dry and part of a supportive network with a permanent fixed address  the hard work of rebuilding can begin.  The men will first need to apply for housing, they will then be assessed to ensure that they are eligible and that they understand and agree to expectations.  It is true that some people are not ready to change; the men selected however will be those who want  to rebuild their lives, who are willing to follow the rules and the plan and who just need a hand up.

What rules? What plan? 

There will be strict rules regarding conduct both inside and outside the building.  A Good Neighbour Committee made up of representatives from ACS staff, local business owners and residents will address any problems; repeated and unresolved problems will result in a tenant being asked to leave.  There is a suite for a caretaker and the building and property will be supervised 24 hours a day, every day.  No visitors will be allowed in the units at any time; all socializing will be in the common rooms on the main floor. Each man will also sit down with ACS staff and develop an individual plan around such things as addiction recovery, counseling , advocacy, job training and employment; if anyone decides they do not want to follow their plan they will be helped to find other accommodations.  There is currently a Supportive Housing Committee that gives input and advice on operations, intake, etc.  It is comprised of ACS staff and representatives from theAbbotsford Police Department, The Salvation Army, Kinghaven Treatment Centre, the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley, support workers and mental health and addictions practitioners.

Will men be brought in from outside Abbotsford?

Decisions regarding eligibility will be made locally with representatives from ACS staff as well as addictions and mental health practitioners.  The goal is that the units will be ‘Abbotsford-first’.  It is estimated that currently there are between 80 and 100 homeless men in Abbotsford (and many more ‘near homeless’).  In a ‘straw poll’ at the Abbotsford Food Bank 9 out of 11 currently homeless men who were asked said that they would be willing to be part of this project, including the rules that govern it.

Who is ACS? Are they qualified to do this?

ACS was founded by Abbotsford residents 44 years ago and serves over 40,000 people each year. 350 staff and 1,400 volunteers make possible 80 programs and services to single parents, newcomers to Canada, seniors; anyone in need.  They operate the Abbotsford Food Bank, Abbotsford Mission Recycling Program, the Family Centre, The Parenting Place, Extreme Weather shelter program as well as counseling programs (including addiction), adult education, job training and help finding employment; all in over 55 languages.  ACS was selected by BC Housing, together with the City of Abbotsford, to operate the project.

Why should Christians consider this project?

Isaiah 58,  Matthew 5:7…Micah 6:8… literally hundreds of times throughout the Scriptures it is clear that followers of Christ have a mandate to help those in need.

God gives a pretty comprehensive list through Isaiah (Ch. 58, summarized)….

“..loose the chains of injustice
…untie the cords of the yoke to set the oppressed free  and break every yoke.
…share your food with the hungry
…provide the poor wanderer with shelter
…when you see the naked, clothe them,
…do away with the yoke of oppression
…spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
…satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
…you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

How can you respond?

1. Pray
2. Attend the public forum on Friday, November 15th at the University of the Fraser Valley to find out more
3. Attend the Public Hearing and respectfully share your views.  Dates for the Public Hearings have not been announced yet.
4. Write to our Mayor and City Councillors; letters carry weight.

The best letters to Council are:

1. Hand-written; it shows a lot of thought and care.  But if you can’t do a handwritten letter don’t let that stop you; a good old-fashioned computer will also work.
2. Short and to the point; only address the issue at hand.
3. Factual; don’t write anything that you do not know for certain is true.
4. Written in your own words; letters that are obviously ‘boiler plate’ carry little weight.
5. Respectful in choice of words and tone; no negative comments about anyone taking an opposing view on the issue.

Letters can be addressed to (please c.c. ACS. You will be sent an acknowledgement of receipt):

City of Abbotsford
Attention: Mayor and Council,
32315 South Fraser Way
Abbotsford, BC  V2T 1W7

Phone:    604-853-2281
Fax:        604-853-1934

A group email can be sent to the Mayor and Council: > mayor & council > city council > email mayor and council

Newspapers need to stop taking the easy way out


This is my first time in my 40 years I have been compelled to write a newspaper. I have been dealing with my mental health issues and for the last three years have received help and support from an organization which has supported and helped many other in our community.

I have been reading both the Times and News for a few years watching for recognition of this organizations contributions to the community of Abbotsford.

From personal experience I know this organization is client centered, providing not just services but a fellowship and belonging which next to shelter and basic needs is necessary for Self-esteem and Self-worth.

To a certain degree this not receiving recognition is a fault of the organizations priorities. Employing a PR person to arrange for newspaper stories and recognition of their numerous contributions to the community and the people they serve is simply not a priority for this organization as it has better uses for its money and time.

Apparently my view of what newspapers are supposed to be about is skewed. I have always assumed that publishers, editors and reporters where aware of and in touch with what was going on in their communities and what organizations were contributing to the welfare of citizens within their communities. I thought local newspapers would inform the community at large about these organizations services and contributions to the health of the community.

Instead it seems that our local papers simply rely on and write about what an organizations PR shill chooses to submit to them.

Leaving an organization which provides amazing long term successful mental health recovery services and programs in our community not getting the recognition they deserve from our local media.

I agree with James W Breckenridge’s article about the fact that if you add up all the claims of people housed by organizations in Abbotsford we should have a negative number of homeless on our streets.

A number of organizations are pumping out turnstile numbers to access funds and grants, taking funds away from organizations that actually provide people with the fellowship, belonging and long term support that is necessary for recovery. Because if an organization is not providing the services to be successful long term they have a turnstile endlessly counting the same services and people over and over.

I count today; tomorrow when you come back I will count that as 2: when next day comes that will be 3; and so on and son on.

Same with housing, Wondering why they are able to help so many, yet the numbers on the street haven’t changed. What are the successes based on? Even if an individual is able to find housing for a month, but has no other fellowship or sense of belonging to anything else besides the street they will simply find there way back where? To the street, Why? We fed them gave them shelter all the necessities right. Why did this person throw all that away? I will explain this and its simple you can give a person all that you feel they need but if there fellowship and belonging has not changed they will return to the one they had.

A successful count should be only be long term only has meaning in the long term. Having a person housed for 12 months with a newly developed sense of fellowship and belonging in the community should be a bare minimum consideration for being able to say they have a success.

There needs to be some kind of accountability when these organizations say they have helped xyz number of persons in need.

I am not saying that these organizations are not in need, they very much are. I would just like them to be honest and upfront – if you simply fed or shelter someone then say we successfully served xyz with a meal and shelter for xyz number of days. But do not say that this is recovery or rehabilitation because it is simply not true.

I believe, based on my personal experience, that any organization that does not develop a peer system or fellowship with the persons they serve will fail. Whether it is addictions, mental health, or homelessness they will fail.

Somewhere some basic psychology has been lost. One of the first things you encounter in psychology, that has been around forever is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to self actualization.

Most successful organizations in the recovery field have a peer support system; examples of this are AA sponsors, MH Peer Support Workers, Mentors. For some reason the most inexpensive and successful treatment of persons in need has been lost, replaced by politicized, expense formulated costly services that have complicated matters and left out the basic need for fellowship.

Fellowship provides belonging, when we are validated and accepted only then do people have a sense of self-esteem or worth. Organizations need to heed this approach to be successful.

Newspapers need to stop taking the easy way out, start paying attention to what is happening in the community and informing the public what the actual situation is. Only in this manner can the public make informed judgments and decisions about these pressing social problems.

Ray Patrick

Businessman – altruist

IN 1990, Steven T. Bigari was running a string of McDonald’s franchises in Colorado Springs and spending most of his working hours thinking about the big bad wolf at his door, otherwise known as Taco Bell, which was killing his business with a promotional menu of items costing only 59 cents each

One day, the restaurants’ owner, Brent Cameron, who was also his mentor and friend, sat down with him over breakfast at one of the franchises, just off Highway 83. “O.K., Steve, what’s your plan?” he asked.

Mr. Bigari outlined the situation, and it was dire: their operations were hemorrhaging cash. Then he presented a plan to cut costs by eliminating, among other things, paid vacations for crew members. What happened next would change Mr. Bigari’s life.

“Brent politely asked me to step into the vestibule and he stuck his finger in my face and used a foul word for one of the three times I ever heard one cross his lips,” Mr. Bigari said. “He said, ‘You can afford to give up your rizzing-razzing vacation, but they can’t, so I hope you have a better plan than that.’ ”

Mr. Bigari said he got the message: take care of your people. It was a message that stuck with him even after Mr. Cameron died and Mr. Bigari became a top McDonald’s franchisee himself — eventually owning 12 stores, three patents and a reputation for clever ideas, like letting customers pay with credit cards and outsourcing the drive-through. Even as his business grew, he kept Mr. Cameron’s crew benefits in place, and began adding to them.

Indeed, over time, he went much further. He created a system to help resolve the problems of the working poor who staffed his restaurants by pulling together or creating an array of services, from arranging day care to organizing transportation to making small emergency loans. The goal, he said, was to keep his employees on the job and focused on customers.

Now he is trying to persuade others to offer this kind of help to their workers, not as an act of kindness or charity but as a way to reduce employee turnover and increase profit — as, he said, it did for him.

This is a major challenge. After all, American business culture tends to focus on employees at the top, not at the bottom. And many don’t want to be told that they pay workers poverty-level wages. Mr. Bigari says he thinks that they will see the light when they see the return they can get from helping the working poor, both as employees and as customers.

MR. BIGARI, 47, is an unlikely candidate to save the working poor. He is a millionaire who lives in Colorado Springs, a politically conservative city that is far from the coastal enclaves of most social entrepreneurs, the catch phrase for people who come up with innovative, nongovernmental ways to address social problems. He has the no-nonsense short hair and straight back of a West Point graduate. (He was in the class of 1982.)

He acknowledged that his employees’ pay scale — an average of $7 an hour in 2006, when he sold his stores — was less than a living wage in Colorado Springs, which he estimated at $12 an hour. He said that competitive pressures and overhead costs, including loan payments and licensing fees, prevented him from offering more, though he said he paid 25 to 75 cents an hour more than other local fast-food outlets.

It is true that Mr. Bigari is relentlessly upbeat. The only time he recalls taking failure personally was in high school, when his football team, which had not lost a game in the three years he was a player, was crushed in a state semifinal. (He still remembers the name of the opposing player he could not block.) He was traumatized, but he eventually realized he had learned a great deal from this setback. He has created in himself an ability to see beyond failures, which he says he has all the time, and treat them as lessons learned.

Over the last three years, he has moved his life in a different direction to help achieve his goal. He spent one year on a social entrepreneurship fellowship, sold his McDonald’s franchises to devote himself fully to his nonprofit organization, America’s Family, and received backing from a venture philanthropy fund.

He had no such plans a decade ago, when he decided to continue Mr. Cameron’s practice of making small, short-term no-interest personal loans to his employees to help them pay their rent, buy tires or meet other immediate needs. (He says he lent about $30,000 a year for 10 years, and only $960 was not paid back.)

Back then, his goal was not to be a high-minded social entrepreneur or even an old-fashioned do-gooder. He just wanted to reduce employee turnover — the rates could hit 300 percent a year — by easing some of the problems that led so many of his workers to miss shifts or to quit.

He did more than lend money: he worked with a local church to set up day care, and he educated employees about public services available to low-wage workers — in some cases, available to those whose incomes are up to 200 percent of poverty level.

Reliable transportation was a near-universal problem for workers, so he started sneaking out to police auctions during lunch on Saturdays, the busiest period in his restaurants, to look for cheap and dependable cars. At first, he resold them at cost to his employees, then experimented with renting them to workers. He has tried other approaches, but has settled on having the foundation take in donated cars, then sell them to a local dealer who fixes them up and resells them to employees.
By 2001, Mr. Bigari was calling his collection of programs McFamily Benefits, and it worked well, for his employees and for him. So well, in fact, that three professors at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs studied the program.

They found that from 2000 to 2002, turnover rates fell sharply at all of Mr. Bigari’s restaurants; three had rates at or below 100 percent. All of the employees who used some part of the programs said they felt motivated to work harder. In the same period, his profit margin rose more than three percentage points.

Debra Powell, a divorced mother of five who managed one of Mr. Bigari’s restaurants, said the program helped many of her crew workers, which in turn made her job easier. She herself had money problems, and Mr. Bigari found a budgeting course at a local nonprofit agency; it worked so well for her that she required all the managers in her store take it, partly because many of them had never had checking accounts.

She used Mr. Bigari’s program in 2003 to get a loan for a personal computer and in 2004 to buy the first car she had ever purchased, a used Chevrolet Cavalier she still drives.

She says she misses Mr. Bigari at work, though she receives bigger bonuses now that the McDonald’s Corporation runs her store. (Franchisees pay rent and licensing fees to the corporation that can total 16 percent of gross receipts, Mr. Bigari said. Company-owned stores do not have to pay, so they can be more generous to employees.)

“I would trade the money to go work for him again,” Ms. Powell said. “He’s not in it for himself; he’s in it for the people.”

Inevitably, some of the people he helps suffer setbacks and cannot honor their obligations. Keeping track of them began to consume more and more of his workday, and those of some of his store managers. “That’s when we knew we had to change the model,” he said.

In 2002, the same year he remarried (he and his first wife divorced in 2000), Mr. Bigari morphed McFamily Benefits into an independent nonprofit group called America’s Family. He chose the name because the goal was to offer the working poor the kind of guidance and support that traditionally came from families.

He arranged for a local car dealer to create a used-car warranty program for participants, and persuaded a local credit union to make loans for things like cars and computers, and to make small, short-term loans so that employees could break free from rapacious payday lenders.

America’s Family had to guarantee the loans, but it was helping employees to build credit histories, even though many of them had never before used a bank. He also began working more directly with local charities and government agencies to ensure that employees who needed services got them, sometimes even persuading government offices to change their operating hours to help meet workers’ needs.

HE also began talking to local businesses about using America’s Family. His first takers were two business owners who went to his church, Springs Community Church, part of the mainline Reformed Church in America. But, as even he has acknowledged, his plan needed a lot of work.

“Steve is a rah-rah-everything’s-wonderful-here’s-what-we’re-going-to-do type of guy, and he’s got this vision in his head, but it was difficult to get it boiled down for business owners,” said Rebecca Kolb, who sells and supports janitorial franchises for a company called Jan-Pro.

Ms. Kolb says that Mr. Bigari has refined his message and expanded America’s Family’s offerings in the last five years, and that she can now see clearly that it helps her franchisees retain employees. When Mr. Bigari is ready to expand America’s Family nationally, she said, she will ask Jan-Pro to adopt it.

He was spending more time on his charity efforts, but Mr. Bigari said he had no thought of selling his McDonald’s franchises until he became an Ashoka fellow in late 2004. “This would’ve just been a cool hobby if Ashoka hadn’t come along,” he said. Ashoka International finances social entrepreneurs worldwide.

Trabian Shorters, a co-director of Ashoka U.S., said the group was drawn to Mr. Bigari by the unabashed scope of his dream. “Steve wants to fix working poverty, period, for everybody,” Mr. Shorters said. “That’s audacious, but he means it.”

Barbara R. Kazdan, Ashoka U.S.’s other co-director, credited Mr. Bigari’s nonprofit group with devising a systemic rethinking of how to help the working poor. “He looked at the whole system that low-income people were caught up in and wanted to create a different kind of system to give them the support they need,” she said.

As an Ashoka fellow, Mr. Bigari stepped aside from his franchises for a year to focus full time on his foundation. After his fellowship ended, in early 2006, he returned to his business. At one point, he told Mr. Shorters that one of his McDonald’s outlets had bested a rival franchisee’s record for serving customers at a drive-through — 371 in one hour. Mr. Shorters congratulated him, then asked, “How do you top that?”

That got Mr. Bigari thinking about what he was doing with his life. Last February, at Mr. Shorters’s urging, he went to a social entrepreneurship conference called the Gathering of Leaders, organized by New Profit Inc., a philanthropic venture fund. He left the meeting convinced that he should become a full-time social entrepreneur, and by June had sold his McDonald’s franchises.

That kind of speed reflects how Mr. Bigari likes to move. He jokes that he operates on Bigari Standard Time, which is a bit like life stuck in fast-forward. He is a consultant and a motivational speaker. He wrote and self-published a book about his ideas, “The Box You Got,” in three months, after a conference organizer asked if he had a book that it could give to those in attendance.

When Mr. Bigari got a too-good-to-be-true deal on a headquarters building for America’s Family in Colorado Springs, he bought it in spite of the fact that it was 135,000 square feet too large. Then he brainstormed with friends and associates to build a mini-theme park called Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center, complete with laser tag, Go Kart racing and other diversions, and had it up and running in less than six months. (Biggs is his nickname, and he likes to talk about Bigg ideas; a sample: “If you are afraid of failure, get over it. Everybody fails.”

Mr. Shorters says it is not unusual for social entrepreneurs to juggle several projects that may seem unrelated. Tom West, an investor who is chairman of Exit41 Inc., a point-of-sale software company that has worked with Mr. Bigari, said in all seriousness: “You don’t want 100 percent of Steve. Ideally, you want maybe 12 percent of him.” (Exit41 helped him develop a call center that saved money by consolidating the taking of drive-through orders from his McDonald’s outlets.)

Mr. Bigari notes that he is using the restaurant in his amusement center to train chefs and other food-service workers, and that his speaking gigs can motivate businesses to pay attention to low-income workers, whom he calls “the invisible people.”

Mr. Bigari says that he is at a starting point for the foundation, with a long road ahead; Ms. Kolb and others who know him said he has to prove that he can make the ideas work at businesses where the owners aren’t part of his social network. He is using a $250,000, two-year investment from New Profit to expand his staff and develop his foundation’s business model. He recently hired a sixth employee at America’s Family, which has an annual budget of about $500,000.

HE is also starting to sign up celebrity advocates who can help build his foundation’s profile. His first is Daryl Simmons, a producer and songwriter, whom he met while negotiating a real estate deal. Mr. Simmons said he, too, had helped employees to buy cars and to learn about financial management. But, he added, “I’ve only done a crumb of what he’s done.”

For his part, Mr. Bigari says he is inspired by people like Joseph Johnson, who had to drop out of college after a family emergency. After working for a time in Phoenix, he sought a job at a McDonald’s in Colorado Springs where Mr. Bigari was then the operations manager, becoming operations manager himself when Mr. Bigari became an owner. Today, at 37, Mr. Johnson owns his own McDonald’s, one of the franchises that Mr. Bigari sold in June. (The McDonald’s Corporation bought the rest.)

Mr. Johnson says that Mr. Bigari is a genuine leader, one who had no compunction about pitching in alongside minimum-wage workers at a fry station or behind a counter. “The one thing we could all appreciate about him was he wasn’t just the guy who would vision up something — he’d be the guy who was there to execute it, too,” he said. “You weren’t calling him in his timeshare in Hawaii; he was right there next to you.”

Mr. Bigari says he knows he is tackling a far bigger problem than a McDonald’s franchise has to face — a point he illustrates with a story about a beach strewn with starfish. A boy is throwing them back in the ocean, one by one, when a man comes by and says: “What are you doing? You can’t possibly make a difference here.”

Without looking up or pausing, the boy picks up another starfish, tosses it in the ocean and says, “Did for that one.”

Daryl Simmons, a producer and songwriter, said he, too, had helped some of his employees to buy cars and to learn about financial management.

Debra Powell, a mother of five who manages a McDonald’s in Colorado Springs, used the America’s Family program to get a loan to buy a PC and a car. She said the program also helped many of her crew workers.


a speech by Bobbie Breckenridge

It’s the worst storm of the year, you’re scrambling to find shelter away from the cold. As you run down the street feeling the frost bite spread through out your body, you look up and see the house you used to own. You pause for just a second to see the happy family sitting around the fireplace warm and toasty so innocent and wonder What would their parents do if their little girl was homeless?? (pause) Good afternoon/morning Mr.T and fellow classmates today I will be talking about the very sad but realistic growing problem in today’s society “Homelessness”. Many people suffer from homelessness each day. You may see them on the streets of Toronto begging for money. What you might not know is that 5052 people are homeless in Toronto alone. Across Canada is an estimated 150,000 people who are homeless. Now think all those people have families and friends who love them. You might be wondering why these people don’t turn to their family and friends for help. Well there are many reasons that people don’t go to there relatives and stay homeless for long periods of time. One reason is that a majority of homeless people are mentally ill. Another reason is that a lot of the homeless are alcohol and substance abusers. The other reasons are: Unemployment, poverty and low paying jobs. The vast majority of the homeless are not living on the street. Many are sleeping in church basements, abandoned buildings and vehicles and in other places away from the public.
Here’s an eye opener 1 in 7 people who are in shelters are children just like us. They unlike us suffer from lack of education and physical abuse. Most of them will grow up to be nothing but there are an odd few that become very rich and have great lives. The pursuit of happiness is a great example of this. This amazing life changing film has a significant meaning and shows that if you work hard enough it will pay off. If you’re saying to yourself right now yeah this all may be true but why don’t they go get a job? Well if you think about it, when you go for a job interview the necessary things needed are: good hygiene (you don’t want to smell bad), proper clothes, a resume (which needs a computer), a phone (so they can call you back) and an address. Even if you do get the job you need five days worth of clean clothes, you need to be rested and be fed in order to concentrate on your work. Plus it will take a couple of months before you have enough money to rent affordable housing. By the end of all that you would probably be fired. Here are some facts on homelessness: Children under 18 make up 27% of the homeless, people from the age of 3 to 50 make up 51% of the homelessness, here’s a scary one 50% of the homeless are women and children running from domestic abuse. So next time you see someone on the street think about everything I’ve said. Think everyone has a different story another tale and all you have to do is take the time and try to think how can I help the on growing problem??? What can I do???

How to tackle the economic paradox

We have persistent poverty within a booming economy; here’s what B.C. can ­ and should ­ do — Seth Klein — Vancouver Sun (p A11), December 12, 2006

It’s the time of year when we find ourselves particularly conscious of poverty and homelessness, but especially this year.

British Columbians seem acutely aware of a paradox that marks our economy: We are simultaneously experiencing solid economic growth and decades-low unemployment on the one hand, and record homelessness, persistent poverty, and a stubborn sense of economic insecurity on the other.

We all tend to be more generous during the holiday season, but these problems cannot be fixed through charity alone ­ they require public policy action.

So what can ­ and should ­ the provincial government do to improve the lot of low-income people, both those who rely on social assistance and those who struggle in the low-wage workforce? A lot.

1) Increase welfare rates. Premier Gordon Campbell’s October announcement that he will increase the shelter allowance for people receiving social assistance was welcome news. But this long overdue change shouldn’t wait until February’s budget. And overall rates must be increased, not just the shelter allowance.A single person without a recognized disability currently gets $510 a month for everything ­ housing, food, clothing, transportation, heat and electricity, toiletries, etc. A single parent with one child receives $968, and a person with a disability gets $856. People without a disability receive less today, in real (inflation adjusted) dollars, than they did 12 years ago. After inflation, rates are 20–26 per cent lower (and 12 per cent lower for people with disabilities.

2) Depoliticize the process of setting welfare rates. Rates should be grounded in a transparent and objective rationale, and tied to a realistic estimate of the basic cost of living. The Dieticians of B.C. report that people cannot eat a nutritious diet on welfare. Calculations by both the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. and Human Resources and Social Development Canada show that welfare rates need to double if they are to meet minimum living costs.A good starting point would be to immediately increase welfare rates by 50 per cent, a measure that would cost about $500 million.

3) Let all welfare recipients keep some earned income. Currently, only those recipients with a recognized disability or barrier to employment are allowed to earn and keep some extra money. B.C. is the only province in Canada that penalizes other welfare recipients by one dollar for every dollar that they earn. Everyone should be able to earn and keep at least $500 per month tax-free.

4) Raise the minimum wage. As with welfare rates, the minimum wage should be depoliticized, and grounded in a clear rationale. An individual working full-time, yearround should not have an income below the poverty line. For this to be so, the minimum wage would need to be $10 per hour.

5) Index both welfare rates and the minimum wage to inflation, and adjust them annually. The Conservative government of Newfoundland recently indexed welfare to inflation, the first government in Canada to do so. B.C. should follow its lead.

6) Make welfare more accessible to those in need. The process of seeking social assistance has become so complicated to navigate, and the eligibility rules so restrictive, that many of those in need are systematically discouraged and denied, and some of these people end up on the streets. The entire application process should be the subject of an independent review, and redesigned so it is appropriate for the majority of people who seek assistance.

7) Increase the stock of affordable housing. The province’s recent move to expand rental subsidies is of some value, particularly for those living in communities with high vacancy rates. But truly addressing the housing crisis and escalating rents requires a significant boost in the quantity of lowincome housing. The province should aim to create 2,000 new units of social housing per year.

8) Enhance access to post-secondary education and training. Meaningful training and education is key to accessing stable, well-paying jobs. The province should rescind the rule that prevents people on welfare from being post-secondary students, and re-introduce tuition-free adult basic education and other upgrading programs at the post-secondary level.

9) Bring in a universal, publicly funded child care program. High quality child care brings important benefits to children in terms of brain development and school readiness, and is essential to women’s equal access to the paid labour market. Quebec has shown that, if the will exists, a province can act alone.

10) Enforce and enhance employment standards. People working in the low-wage workforce rely on provincial employment standards for their basic workplace rights: Minimum wages, statutory holidays, minimum and maximum shift times, overtime pay, etc.

But these standards aren’t being pro-actively enforced, and have been significantly weakened. Vulnerable workers need to know that their workplace rights will be honoured. And if the laws made unionization less challenging, such workers would likely see significant improvements in their income and security.

Combined, these measures would cost the provincial treasury just over $2 billion next year. That may sound like a lot, but consider that last year’s budget surplus was $3 billion, the current year’s surplus is on track to be a similar size, and next year’s surplus will be larger still.The money is there to make a dramatic difference, and the public wants to see action. The cost of inaction is high.

Seth Klein is the B.C. director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.