TGIF. It’s been a tough week. The boss was in a mood; likely due to the two month old child that needed very late and very early attention. You started the week three days behind and finished it four days behind. That much needed two week vacation with the family was wonderful, but catch-up is a … well you know. Traffic is light and you make it home on time, turn into the driveway, park, get out, stretch and head for the door. Home. That is the more travelled road. There is another. One that doesn’t lead home and for those on that road the on-ramps are many.
The “2016 Point in Time Count” conducted with Canada’s 20,000 Homes Campaign and Fredericton’s Community Action Group on Homelessness (CAGH) found that nearly one third of New Brunswick’s homeless population was avoiding conflict or abuse at ‘home.’
Women and often their children living with violence have a choice: suffer the violence or leave home i.e. become homeless. Young people, vulnerable to abuse, whether sexual, physical or psychological, escape into homelessness as well. Even seniors are not exempted. This same abuse can lead to problems of addiction, emotional breakdown, mental illness, and criminality.
Unanticipated events, a sudden illness, job loss, fire, or automobile accident can lead to financial strain, missed rent or mortgage payments, and the loss of one’s home. Mental health challenges like the onset of schizophrenia, paranoia, or depression can also lead to homelessness. As Ned Vizzini noted in It’s Kind of a Funny Story: “If you can’t get out of bed for long enough, people come and take your bed away.” Homelessness is not a personal failure. It is more often the result of a system failure or what is known as a cumulative impact.
Discharge from hospitals, correction facilities, rehabilitation facilities or even active service in the Armed Forces without the proper planning can lead to homelessness. Youth forced out of foster care due to “aging out” (turning 19 in New Brunswick) are eight times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress than are other youth of the same age and homeless adults are seven times more likely to have been in foster care than the rest of the us (Partners for Youth 2015).
In February 2016, according to The Daily Gleaner, New Brunswick lost 5700 jobs, 4000 of them full time. That is 5700 jobs in 29 days. Not surprisingly, the follow-up report indicated that Employment Insurance (EI) claims were on the rise. And with a provincial unemployment rate over 9% it seems unlikely that everyone will be working any time soon. And of course when the federally-funded EI money runs out, our neighbours will be forced turn to social assistance.
So we have a diminished tax base due to job loss and an increase in government spending due to job loss. And suddenly you’re selling the car, remortgaging the house, avoiding phone calls from those nice credit card people, and visiting the food bank. Then it gets bad.
That particular road is being taken more and more often and homelessness is not the “other guy’s problem” anymore. You see, a free society, comes with the freedom to fail whether it be the economy, the bureaucracy, or the government. When any of these fail, you pay the price.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone out there that could keep you off the street, out of the shelters, and into an affordable, suitable, ready-to-inhabit home when the system fails? There is and they are working every day to put the homeless into homes.
It’s simple really: Everybody wants to go home on Friday.
For more information on ending homelessness, contact the Community Action Group on Homelessness.
Norm is a volunteer with Fredericton’s Community Action Group on Homelessness and an At-Large Member of Canada Without Poverty’s Board of Directors.