Socioeconomic Pressures on the Elderly and Newly Homeless in Toronto

Socioeconomic Pressures on the Elderlyand Newly Homeless in Toronto

The upcoming 2012 City of Toronto budget seeks to drop spending levels ten percent across the board (Dale, 2011), regardless of the need for services, increasing demand or consideration on the effects to the most marginalised within our city. One such cut will see the closure of homeless shelters gears to the elderly poor – a group that is considered one of the most at risk for abuse, neglect and health issues on the street or at other generalised shelters. This decision comes on the heels of the largest ever cohort of people entering old-age – the baby boom generation (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007), – and on the cusp of the financial downturn that eradicated a large part of peoples’ retirement savings. Even those with proper housing are facing dramatic increases in property value and, in turn, property taxes based on new assessments that may be well outside any structured retirement plan they have in place (Gillespie, 2007). Persistently high unemployment along with near stagnant economic growth, leaves the elderly, along with the young, as the first groups to be rejected as potential candidates for hiring due to their age and perceived long-term value to a company which denies them the ability to supplement their retirement income (Cohen, 1999). This perfect storm of socioeconomic conditions sets the stage for what might be the largest influx of elderly homeless on our streets at a time when we callously rollback services.

 

The pathway to homelessness in the elderly is not unlike that of street youth in that it consists of multidimensional factors including the lack of affordable housing, employment or institutional services (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003) – but the risk factors are different, including the of loss of stable income, death of a spouse or significant other, lack of a proper caregiver or eviction (Crane, 1999). Others that have been institutionalised for a long period for physical or mental health issues and have lost their housing within that time (Hecht & Coyle, 2003) and are often released to shelters as a last resort. Further still, some have become homeless in their middle-age as they were living with elderly parents – due to economic or health concerns – who since passed away leaving their offspring little-to-no social safety net (Crane & Warnes, 2000). All of these factors are pressured by past economic ability – with many surviving in poor or near-poor conditions most of their lives – and never having the benefits that full- and long-time employment provides, such as personal saving or pensions (Cohen, 1999). While the relative population of this subgroup is falling when compared to all homeless people, in absolute numbers it is in fact increasing and expected to climb in North America by an estimated half million people (Cohen, 1999) in the next fifteen years as our general population ages.

 

Many studies argue that the defining age for elderly homeless be decrease by 10 to 20 years than in the average population since the physical and mental health effects of living on the street causes the appearance and behaviour of being older (Crane & Warnes, 2000). It is expected that a homeless man over the age of 45 were twice as likely to die prematurely than the average male and that “the cost of being homeless in North America is losing about 20 years of your life expectancy” (Wright, Rubin & Devine, 1998, 167). Unlike the rest of the homeless population, women outnumber men –  possibly due to life expectancy (Cohen 1999) but also because men spend 50% more time on the street in comparison (Crane & Warnes, 2000) and women tend to enter street life in their later years (Crane, 1999). The lack of adequate and safe hospice for the elderly in shelters tends to bring the on-set of street sickness – a combination of a number of issues including respiratory problems, skin afflictions and malnutrition from exposure to the elements and poor hygiene (Higgitt, et al, 2003) – that further accelerates physical and mental health issues already progressing in the elderly population. This can lead to an increase of degenerative diseases and chronic conditions such as hypertension, anaemia, cardio- and cerebro-vascular diseases (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007). Unlike other homeless groups whose mortality is more often caused by AIDS, suicide or homicide, the elderly tend to die early from cancer and heart diseases and mostly alone in a hospital or residential setting (Hwang, 2000).

 

Mental health issues are often sited as a driving factor to homelessness in the elderly population, such as the on-set of early dementia or Parkinson’s disease (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003), but often the conditions from living on the street and isolation from family and friends are the catalyst for these issues. One third of older homeless men were found to be clinically depressed (Cohen, 1999) which stresses am already weakened immune systems and physical health. Elderly women tend to be even further debilitated depending on age: with 57-75% reporting depression over the age of fifty in comparison to only 10 % under the age of twenty (Crane & Warnes, 2000). The lost of a long-time partner, isolation from a community or the inability to adapt to a life of poverty leads to an entrenched feeling of isolation and loss of pride that leads to depression, hostility, poor self-esteem and psychosomatic illnesses (Rokach, 2003). Males are four times more likely than women to engage in long-term alcohol abuse which follows them to the street and increases with age (Cohen, 1999) and is often neglected upon medical review, being incorrectly attributed to physiological changes due to aging or dementia (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007).

 

The lack of services and support is sited as the causation and continuance of both mental and physical health issues and reliance on the street. Often, without encouragement, physical ailments go undiagnosed because of the lack of a family physician, inability to recognise the severity of the issue or fear, either of being shunned by or directly suspicious of, the medical community and potential institutionalisation (Crane & Warnes, 2000). Others were barred from seeking medical help because of the lack of a health card or insurance and from the reluctance of health providers to register homeless people because of their multiple inflictions and transient nature (Hwang, 2000). The Daily Bread Food bank also notes that 40% of their older recipients of their service often had difficulty paying for their prescription medications every month with as many as 27% declining outright to purchase them simply because of affordability (2001). The newly elderly homeless also tend also to stay with services familiar and close to them, such as onsite clinics where they take shelter, but are seemingly oblivious to community outreach programs and drop-in centres (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007). They are also subject to more victimization within these shelters from other residents due to their frail condition, including physical assault, thief and rape (Cohen, 1999).

 

Traditional services to aid the homeless rely on as methodology of crisis intervention and attempt to focus on building independence and self-sufficiency (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007) a program better geared to youth and young adults. Elderly homeless require greater access to mobility and care during the day, often unavailable in shelter as they only operate during the evening hours (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003). Mental health issues – including depression, requires constant and static care to stymie isolation – and chronic and multiple physical health conditions need support and aid for medication (Cohen, 1999). While income among older homeless people is reportedly two times higher than their younger counterparts due to social assistance, old age security and past pensions (Cohen, 1999; Crane & Warnes, 2000) their ability to find alternative sources of income from temporary employment or street services is limited by their physical abilities and public perception (Crane, 1999). The MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn study in Toronto also showed that 50% of the recently elderly homeless also are immigrants to Canada and have suffered from family breakdowns and little communications with ex-spouses and community. Those who are moved immediately out of standard social programs to dedicated, specialised shelters where they can obtain services and a proper network suffer less from chronic health issues and are more likely to survive longer and find permanent homes (2007). Regardless of who, where, when and how they arrive, the elderly homeless population struggle with differing needs that require much more substantive and long-term care and need for these programs, particularly when socioeconomic conditions are pushing more into old age and near poverty, has never been more prevalent. The audacity to close services rather than opening more seems ludicrous, untimely and wholly unpalatable.

 

 


References

Cohen, C. I. (1999) Aging and homelessness. The Gerontologist, 39(1). 5-14.

Crane, M. (1999) Understanding Older Homeless People. Housing Studies, 15(2). 325-327.

Crane, M & Warnes, A. M. (2000) Lessons from Lancefield Street: Tackling the needs of older homeless people. National Homeless Alliance. London.

Daily Bread Food Bank (2001) Aging with Dignity? How governments create insecurity for low-income seniors. Toronto.

Dale, D. (2011, Dec. 7) Environmentalists, child-care advocates speak out: Follow it Live. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from:  http://www.thestar.com/news/cityhallpolitics/article/1098229–environmentalists-child-care-advocates-speak-out-follow-it-live

Gillespie, K. (2007, Sept. 27) Who can rescue seniors from property tax trap? The Toronto Star. Retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/article/261080

Hecht, L. & Coyle, B. (2001). Elderly Homeless: A Comparison of Older and Younger Adult Emergency Shelter Seekers in Bakersfield, California. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(1). 66-79.

Hwang, S. (2000) Homelessness and Health. Canadian Medical Journal, 164(2). 229-233.

MacDonald, L., Dergal, J. & Cleghorn, L. (2007) Living on the Margins. Jornal of Gerontological Social Work, 49(1-2). 19-46.

Rokach, A. (2003) The Lonely and Homeless: Causes and Consequences. The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Psychosocial Stress, Toronto.

Stergiopoulos, V. & Herrmann, N. (2003, July) Old and Homeless: A Review and Survey of Older Adults Who Use Shelters in an Urban Setting. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48. Canadian Psychiatric Association. 374-380.

Wright, J. D., Rubin, B. A. & Devine J. A. (1998). Beside the golden door: Policy, politics and the homeless. Aldine de Gruyter, New York.

Homelessness in Canada

Homelessness in Canada

Describe and discuss the challenges and policy implications of defining homelessness

The common stereotype of the homeless is based on those in direct visibility – often unwashed, crazed individuals that roam aimlessly through the streets seeking whatever pittance afforded to them by the passing public. This is a reflection of absolute homelessness – those who live on the street or in emergency shelters – but it is argued that this only represents the “tip of the iceberg” (Echenberg & Jensen, 2008) not to mention begin facetious and misinformed. Two further categories that should be considered or those that are concealed and in relative homelessness – living in places not of their own or are in conditions that are unfit or intermediate (Girard, 2006) – and can be given temporal qualities such as the chronic, cyclical or temporary (Being, et al., 1999). While this may expose more of the issue and help delineate between particular groups in order to define policy approaches, it remains broad and too exclusive definition whereas members can easily move between or out of groups over time depending on a number of factors (Springer, 2011).

 

The definition of homelessness also hinges on the bias of those whose responsibility it is to develop policy and approach the issue – often influenced by the perception of the public who prefer to pass blame to the homeless rather than adopt social and fiscal responsibility (Layton, 2008, 42-44). This creates a schism between those in the position to provide aid and those who are in need of it – with governments creating a minimalist construct of the issue as to limit negative public response (Chapham, 1990). Neo-conservatives Mulroney, Harris and Lastman took views to appease the public sentiment (Layton, 2008, 39-45) and curtailed social assistance, distancing themselves under the premise that homelessness is a “choice” and it is up to the individual to mete out their own fate (Fallis & Murray, 1990) or by out-right dismissing the argument – insisting it doesn’t exist or that unfettered market forces will ultimately solve the issue by removing the impediment to competitiveness made by public welfare spending (Harvey, 1989, 7-16).

The inability and will to develop a holistic definition of homelessness – coerced by public and political leanings bent toward neo-liberalist ideals – leads to a statistic that is immeasurable and thus impossible to develop an overarching policy (Hulchanski, 2000). Houselessness helps define a broader view of the issues that are staging grounds for more transparent definitions including those who are inadequately housed. These are families or individuals that are without long-term legal tenure to ensure security; removed from required social and natural resources that affect health, safety and community; lack affordable housing – not only at the offset but over time – where less than 50% of their income is required for proper shelter; or bee made available a space which provides adequate privacy, sound living conditions and accessibility for those with special needs. A home should encompass not only the bare minimum standards of outlined by the United Nation Declaration of Human Rights (1948) but be resilient against social, environmental and economic shifts that – with globalization and an ever-changing environment – occur at a more frequent scale (Springer, 2000).

 

Annually, 22,000 make use of the 3,800 shelter beds available in Toronto, 68,000 remain in line for affordable housing, 150,000 pay more than 50% of their income towards rent (StatsCan, 2006) and 260,000 pay more than 30% – an amount that encompasses approximately 20% of all households (QuickFacts, 2011). The issue of homelessness under the auspices of houselessness attempts to capture a much greater group than the official count of 5,000 under the absolute definition (QuickFacts, 2011) and shows how close many are to being At Risk (Hulchanski, 2000). But even this number leaves out the number of hidden homeless – those who have lost their homes only to be taken in by friends or family, commonly referred to as “couch-surfers” – and should be considered too for inclusion in the At Risk category (Hwang, 2000). It is estimated that mitigating the needs of the homeless through programs and shelters on a interim basis costs taxpayers an estimated ten times that it would cost to house them properly in the long-term facilities (Blueprint, 2007) – not including the effects of stress that physical and mental health will have on our social and health infrastructure budgets (Hwang, 2000) – a amount that, if acted upon pre-emptively, can atone neo-conservative ideals of shrinking government expenditures if the initial capital outlay is made to mitigate the At Risk population.

 

Public policy is driven by clear and balance declaration and said definition may be based on bias – particularly when discussing an emotionally-charged issue such as homelessness (Cassavant, 1999). Major educational and economic players – including Finance Ministers, Bank Governors and Professors – have recently contributed their concern over continuing global economic turmoil (Whittington, 2011) a city becoming increasing divided by income disparity (Hulchanski, 2007) and activism reflecting the public disdain for inaction (Torobin, 2011). With continued policies that hinder our cities ability to solve the issue – such as the recent decision to sell TCHC units (Vincent, 2011) – we are shown the direct result of not having a clear, cohesive definition to provide concrete quantitative measures needed to define policy that can lead public discourse toward a viable, fiscally and socially responsible solution (Cassavant, 1999).

 

 “No one chooses to be hungry, dirty, sleepless and afraid” (Hector, homeless youth, 1999). Discuss this statement critically with specific reference to the health, morbidity, social stigma and legal issues facing street youth.

Out of all the sub-groups in the homeless population, adolescents experience the most extreme of conditions – with increased health concerns and higher morbidity and morality rates than all other groups.  It is also the group with the highest rate of increase (Report Card, 2003) and faces greater social and economical resistance while being exposed to more instances of physical and sexual assaults on the street, alcohol and drug abuse and disproportionate amount of conflicts with the law (CMHC, 2001). No one chooses this life to be “hungry, dirty, sleepless and afraid” (Hector, 1999) but often the opportunities they have to avoid or escape are limited and they have either fled worse conditions at home or have never known a home in the first place (Rokach, 2003).

 

Many homeless youth identify a problematic childhood as a driving force (Kidd, 2003) with physical, mental and sexual abuse being the catalyst to them leaving home (CHMC, 2001). Stability at home or within the child welfare system also plays a major factor where neglect, family continuity or domestic violence (Kidd, 2003) pushes adolescents to the street – while pull factors, such as a desire for independence, resistance to rules or authority and desire for experimentation also play a deciding factor (Miller, et al., 2004). Differing sexual orientation is disproportionately higher in street youth then their counterparts and has been on the rise in recent years – specifically from those who traveled from smaller communities –  (McCreary, 2007) and can be attributed to lack of acceptance by family members or social problems at school (Higgitt, et al. 2003).

 

Half of street youth start to become involved between the ages of 11-14 years old (McCreary, 2007) with many having left school prior to completing a basic level of education due to alienation, poor achievement (Higgitt, et al. 2003) or have been expelled for reasons spawning from their troubled lives (McCreary, 2007). As a result, they have trouble obtaining employment or suffer from low wages which along with the lack of affordable housing have driven them to the street (CMHC, 2001). Welfare assistance programs in many provinces are not available to those between the ages of 16 and 19 where they are outside the catchments of child welfare policy and below the cut-off for social assistance (Kelly & Caputo, 2007) driving many to seek less mainstream employment and become relegated to more marginal sources of income such as panhandling, “squeegeeing”, selling drug and prostitution (Baron, 2001). This requires adolescents to form bonds with other disenfranchised youth – often described as their street family – and further perpetuates their reliance on street lifestyle (Higgitt, et al. 2003).

 

Youth are at higher risk of being exposed to violent crime (Kufeldt & Burrows, 1994) which makes them adverse to shelters leading to more time being spent on the street where a condition that Higgitt et al. describe as ‘street sickness’ occurs (2003). Poor hygiene, exposure to the elements and a substandard diet exacerbates existing conditions, specifically those who encounter a laissez-faire attitude to sexual encounters (Dachner & Tarasuk, 2002) – either by choice, lack of means or requested or forced in-trade (AHS, 2003). Drug abuse is common as a part of sexual encounters (McCreary, 2007) or to combat or subdue mental health issues (Kidd, 2003) which can lead to increased violence and injury (Kelly & Caputo, 2007). This high-risk lifestyle coupled with poor living conditions (Dachner & Tarasuk, 2002) and lack of funds for medication (Caputo, 1996) or ability to store or regulate those provided for free (Kelly & Caputo, 2007) leads to a higher morbidity rate than other homeless people for similar and preventable ailments.

 

Unchecked mental health (Kidd, 2003) driven by the malaise of poor health (Higgitt, et al, 2003) coupled with feelings of inadequacy, loneliness through ostracism and anxiety over the future (Rokach, 2003) can lead to a higher rate of drug and alcohol abuse – compounding the problem – as well as increased violence and suicide rates among street youth. Increased violence not only leads to a higher rate for murder (Roy, et al., 2004) but more theft and drug arrests and convictions among adolescents on the street (McCreary, 2007). This causes a social backlash against street youth and forces governments to enforce laws that limit the remaining “legal” sources of income that are less prone to health or safety issues – such as panhandling or “squeegeeing” (Layton, 2008).

 

While it is the combination of physical and mental health issues that contribute to the lessened life expectancy of adolescents on the street, many of the factors that drive these conditions are often unavoidable and seen as a better alternative to that which they escaped. Without recourse to elevate from their current position and the “comfort” that is provided by the street community, many are stuck in a vicious cycle of depression and abuse that makes them easy prey for exploitation. Street youth are, by far, the most marginalised of the homeless population – but by no means is it a construct of choice. It is the negative and misinformed perception from society that has directed policy against this group that has limited the means for survival and caused many to live in conditions fraught with repetitive, life-threatening choices.

 

References

[AHS] Adolescent Health Survey (2003) McCreary Centre Society, Vancouver.

Baron, S. (2001) Street Youth labour market experience and crime. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 38. 189-215.

[Blueprint] Framework for the Blueprint to End Homelessness in Toronto (2006) Wellesley Institute, Toronto. Retrieved from http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/files/blueprint/Blueprint_TheFramework%28final%29.pdf

Cassavant, L. (1999, Jan.) Definition of Homelessness (PRB 99-1E). Political and Social Affairs Division of the Parliamentary Research Branch, Government of Canada.

Chapman, D (1990) “Conclusions” Homelessness: Public Policies and Private Troubles. Cassell, New York. 232.

CHMC (2001, July) Environmental Scan of Youth Homelessness. Research Highlights: Socio-economic Series, 86;

Dachner, N. & Tarasuk, V. (2002) Homeless ‘squeegee kids’: Food insecurity and daily survival. Social Science & Medicine, 54. 1039-1049.

Echenberg, H. & Jensen, H. (2008) Defining and Enumerating Homelessness in Canada. Library of Parliament, Ottawa.

Farris, G. & Murray A. eds. (1990) Housing the Homeless and Poor: New Partnerships among the Private, Public and Third Sectors. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 3.

Girard, M. (2006) Determining the Extend of the Problem: The Values and Challenges of Enumeration. Canadian Review of Social Policy (58). 104.

Harvey, D. (1989) From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism. Geografiska Annaler 71B(1). Wiley-Blackwell, Sockholm. 3-17.

Higgitt, N., Wingert, S. & Ristock, J (2003) Voices from the margins: Experiences of street-involved youth in Winnipeg. University of Winnipeg.

Hulchanski, D. (2000, Dec.) Categorizing Houselessness for Research and Policy Purposes: Absolute, Concealed and At Risk. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Hulchanski, D. (2007) The Three Cities within Toronto. Cities Centre Press, Toronto.

Hwang, S. (2000) Homelessness and Health. Canadian Medical Journal, 164(2). 229-233.

Kelly, K. & Caputo, T. (2007) Health and Street/Homeless Youth. Journal of Health Psychology, 12(5). 726-736.

Kidd, S. A. (2003) Street Youth: Coping and Interventions. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 20. 235-261.

Layton, J. (2008) Homelessness: How to End the National Crisis. Penguin Books, Toronto.

McCreary Centre Society (2007) Against the Odds: A profile of marginalized and street-involved youth in BC. Vancouver.

Miller, P., Donahue, P. Este, D. & Hofer, M. (2004) Experiences of being Homeless or At Risk of being Homeless among Canadian Youth. Adolescence, 39. 736-755.

QuickFacts (2011, May) Toronto Shelter, Support & Housing Administration. City of Toronto. Retrieved from http://www.toronto.ca/housing/pdf/quickfacts.pdf

[Report Card] Toronto Report Card on Housing and Homelessness (2003) City of Toronto.

Rokach, A. (2003) The Lonely and Homeless: Causes and Consequences. The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Psychosocial Stress, Toronto.

Roy, E., Haley, N. Leclerc, P., Sochanski, B., Boudreau, J. & Boivin, J. (2004) Mortality in a cohort of street youth in Montreal. Journal of the American Medical Association, 292(5). 569-574.

Springer, J. (2011) Defining Homelessness: PLE845 [In-Class Lecture].  RyersonUniversity, Toronto. September 21st, 2011.

Springer, S. (2000) Homelessness: A Proposal for a Global Definition and Classification. Habitat International, 24. 475-484.

Torobin, J. (2011, Oct. 14) Bank of Canada head calls Occupy protests ‘entirely constructive’. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/bank-of-canada-head-calls-occupy-protests-entirely-constructive/article2202064/

United Nations (1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25.1.

Vincent, D. (2011, Oct. 21) Toronto Community Housing approves sale of 706 houses. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1074258–toronto-community-housing-approves-sale-of-706-houses

Whittington, L. (2011, Oct. 21) European debt crisis has Flaherty worried. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1073809

 

Defining and Mediating the Cause of the Newly and Elderly Homeless in Toronto

Defining and Mediating the Cause of the Newly and Elderly Homeless in Toronto

While there are many studies on the cause and effect of homelessness within our cities that provide analysis and policy remedies – even for subsections of this problem, such as families and youth groups – little research has been committed to a growing trend in our culture: The newly-elderly homeless. In the past, this stratum of poverty has been extrapolated from more generalised statistics and merely speculated on the berth and condition of its members (Cohen, 1999) offering little insight in how to combat the problem or even provide a solid definition of the core issue. A recent study by MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn sought to identify issues revolving around the recently homeless who are elderly, identifying the causation and current policy and regiment gaps that allow these members to silently suffer more so than their counterparts (2007) and shed light on this growing cohort. Shifting demographics with an aging population coupled with economic turmoil and subsequent austerity measures have placed elderly people who live at the margin in peril of losing adequate shelter and services – breeding a new housing condition which is complex to anticipate and demands further research and planning intervention.

 

Determining the pathway to homelessness in the elderly is cumbersome and not unlike that of street youth in that it consists of multidimensional factors including the lack of affordable housing, employment or institutional services (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003). But the risks are different, harder to measure and often more abrupt:  the sudden loss of stable income, death of a spouse or significant other, lack of a proper caregiver and even eviction (Crane, 1999). Others that have been institutionalised for a long period due to physical or mental health may have lost their ability to maintain housing within that time (Hecht & Coyle, 2003) and are often released to shelters as a last resort. Further still, some have become homeless in their middle-age as they were living with elderly parents – due to economic or health concerns – who’ve since passed away leaving their offspring little-to-no social safety net (Crane & Warnes, 2000). While generally better educated, these factors are pressured by past economic ability – with many surviving in poor or near-poor conditions most of their lives – never having the benefits that full- and long-time employment provides, such as personal saving or pensions (Cohen, 1999). Alternatively, they may have had their pensions rescinded through bankruptcy or corporate raiding or their retirement savings dwindled by sudden economic decline (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007; Gillespie, 2007).

 

Capturing the scope and severity of the issue through traditional services who aid the homeless – which rely on a methodology of crisis intervention in an attempt to focus on building independence and self-sufficiency (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007) – is often untenable as they are programs more attractive to youth and young adults. Elderly homeless require greater access to mobility and care during the day, often unavailable in shelters as they only operate during the evening hours or are inaccessible for those with disabilities (Stegiopoulos & Herrmann, 2003). Mental health issues – including depression – requires constant and consistent care to stymie isolation and chronic and multiple physical health conditions need support and aid for medication (Cohen, 1999). The current lack of services and support are cited as the causation and continuance of both mental and physical health issues and further isolation and reliance on the street. Often, without third-party encouragement, physical ailments go undiagnosed because of the lack of a family physician, inability to recognise the severity of the issue or fear, either of being shunned by or directly suspicious of, the medical community and potential institutionalisation (Crane & Warnes, 2000). Others were barred from seeking medical help because of the lack of a health card or insurance and from the reluctance of health providers to register homeless people because of their multiple inflictions and transient nature (Hwang, 2000). The newly-elderly homeless tend to stay with services familiar and close to them, such as family doctors or neighbourhood clinics where they make shelter, but are seemingly oblivious to community outreach programs and drop-in centres (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn, 2007) where research can be completed more comprehensively. Agencies, such as The Daily Bread Food bank have conducted their own surveys that show 40% of older recipients of their service often had difficulty paying for their prescription medications every month with as many as 27% declining outright to purchase them simply because of affordability (2001). The MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn study in Toronto also showed that 50% of the recently elderly homeless are also recent immigrants to Canada and have suffered from family breakdowns and have little communication between ex-spouses or the community and suffer from a language or cultural disadvantage. The elderly are also subject to more victimization within these shelters from other residents due to their frail condition, including physical assault, thief and rape (Cohen, 1999) but rarely are these events reported out of neglect, indifference or shame.

 

Those who are moved immediately out of standard programs to dedicated, specialised shelters where they can obtain services and a more appropriate social network suffer less from chronic health issues and are more likely to survive longer and find permanent homes (MacDonald, Dergal & Cleghorn , 2007). Similar studies in the United States and Britain confirms the stark difference in needs and services between the elderly homeless and existing policy structures. While programs are available to provide economic support in both nations – including old age security and medical care – often these are only enough to mitigate the current problem and not enough to permit a further decline in physical or mental health (Hecht & Coyle, 2003). As well, the qualification cut-off rate to obtain these services often disallow the ability to earn other income, however little or temporary, rendering those who claim this aid constantly reliant and remain at the upper-edge of poverty (Crane & Warnes, 2000) where they become an invisible statistic. Defining the issues that cause elderly homelessness and capturing the potential size of this problem will require resources from multiple agencies and personal interviews to create effective and preventative policy and support services that will not only take undue strain off of existing social assistance – but better and lengthen the lives of those who spent theirs building the community we have today.

 

 

References

Cohen, C. I. (1999) Aging and homelessness. The Gerontologist, 39(1). 5-14.

Crane, M. (1999) Understanding Older Homeless People. Housing Studies, 15(2). 325-327.

Crane, M & Warnes, A. M. (2000) Lessons from Lancefield Street: Tackling the needs of older homeless people. National Homeless Alliance. London.

Daily Bread Food Bank (2001) Aging with Dignity? How governments create insecurity for low-income seniors. Toronto.

Gillespie, K. (2007, Sept. 27) Who can rescue seniors from property tax trap? The Toronto Star. Retrieved from: http://www.thestar.com/article/261080

Hecht, L. & Coyle, B. (2001). Elderly Homeless: A Comparison of Older and Younger Adult Emergency Shelter Seekers in Bakersfield, California. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(1). 66-79.

Hwang, S. (2000) Homelessness and Health. Canadian Medical Journal, 164(2). 229-233.

MacDonald, L., Dergal, J. & Cleghorn, L. (2007) Living on the Margins. Jornal of Gerontological Social Work, 49(1-2). 19-46.

Rokach, A. (2003) The Lonely and Homeless: Causes and Consequences. The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Psychosocial Stress, Toronto.

Stergiopoulos, V. & Herrmann, N. (2003, July) Old and Homeless: A Review and Survey of Older Adults Who Use Shelters in an Urban Setting. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48. Canadian Psychiatric Association. 374-380.

 

 

Alexandra Park

Alexandra Park

Alexandra Park Secondary Plan - Sample

Alexandra Park Secondary Plan – Sample

Group project revolving around the redevelopment of Alexandra Park — a community housing project in Toronto owned and operated by the TCHC. Alexandra Park was developed in the era of large block-busting planning where roads were removed or realigned in order to create public space or walkable communities. Unfortunately, these design decisions isolated communities by removing flow between neighbourhoods and often created unsafe or unkempt spaces that deteriorated over time. Regent Park in the east-end of Toronto is currently undergoing a similar redevelopment with many success stories — but some irritation on how the process unfolded. The concept of the project was to continue with the success but address the failings from the first project.

Toronto community housing stock is currently under a massive infrastructure backlog. Most of the housing well beyond its build lifespan and little avenues for financing or years of neglect creating a crisis among it residents and neighbours.  Regent Park was the catalyst required to involve private sector developers with partnerships within the community and NGOs to leverage the condominium boom the City has experienced over the past decade to create an opportunity to address these issues.

Since this project was completed, the City of Toronto has embarked on a comprehensive rebuilding of the area, reconnecting the successful neighbourhoods surrounding the site and the appetite of citizens to live within walking or transit distance to a revitalized office and entertainment sectors nearby with providing more social housing that meets or exceeds the requirements of existing residents.

Contributors

Anthony Di Santo
David Johnson
Paul Tobia
Stefano Guglietti
Austin Pernarella
Loralea Tulloch
Alexander Ruggieri
Cody Hashemi
Christopher Evan Jones

Personal Contributions

Land-Use Planning

Rezoning Requirements

Zero Displacement Staging

Massing Study

Cost Analysis

Maps and Schedules

 

Download the Alexandra Park Secondary Plan project

 

 

Read More

Torontoist article on the Toronto Plan

Toronto Star article on the social aspects of the plan

Link to the official TCHC plan

 

 

The Junction Analysis Project : Part Two

Sample of the Junction Analysis Display Boards

Sample of the Junction Analysis Display Boards

Submitted: November 3rd, 2010

Part two of The Junction Scoping Project was an independent analysis of the streetscape,  public space and housing based on our visits during the first assignment. The purpose of the assignment was two-fold: to conduct the analysis given the tools and methodologies provided in lecture and; to display our results using a variety of methods and standard visual tools.

 

 

 

 

View the Streetscape Analysis display board

View the Public Space Analysis display board

View the Housing and Density Analysis display board

 

 

  • Sample of the Junction Analysis Display Boards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts and Shorts II

Monday, March 6th, 2010

Defining Transportation

When land-use pattern create too heavy of a load on the existing or planned road network the system is unable to cope with demand and function at an adequate speed, causing Traffic Congestion. This can be stressed by traffic control systems failing to direct traffic effectively or there are conflicts between actors using the roadway, as seen with transport trucks and daily commuters (Springer, 2010a). Congestion increases the cost of operating a vehicle and requisite fuel consumption; creates economic fallout from unreliable transportation; increases the odds of accidents and ultimately reduces the level of comfort, convenience and safety of everyone which leads to impairments in mental and physical health (Jackson, 2003).

 

Solutions to congestion are to discouraging personal transportation by imposing Peak-Hour Pricing through toll-roads and electronic monitoring – or by further extending infrastructure. Although expanding the road network initially seems a logical and simple solution, it leads to Triple Convergence – a realignment of commuters’ space, time and modes of transportation. People inherently travel the path of least resistance (Downs, 1992) and by elevating stress on congested highways, those commuters who previous choose alternate routes to avoid congestion to return to the new roadway (spatial convergence); those who shifted the time at which they travel tend to return to a schedule that is more convenient; and those who switch modes from private to public transportation return to their car for the comfort, convenience and control (Springer, 2010a). This, in turn, creates new stress on the road and more congestion.

 

The design of Transit-Oriented Developments focuses on the root of the problem by the creation of a densely-populated, mixed-use community surrounding a node of public transportation with a intimate pedestrian-focused grid pattern and encouraging the use of safer and cleaner private forms of transportation with bicycles lanes and parking (Renne, 2009). These developments are typically a kilometre in diameter, with stepped-back building mass from a central point containing shops, offices and social services. The approach also pushes back on the notion of personal isolation – a repercussion of a technologically-laden society – that deters people from connecting with their surroundings and neighbours (Springer, 2010a).

 

By removing the necessity for an automobile in everyday tasks, Location-Efficient Communities are created where previous expenditures reserved for the maintenance and operation of a vehicle – estimated at $8000 a year (CAA, 2007) – can be released and reinvested into the community. Some financial institutions and government agencies in North America are offering mortgages that reflect urban realities – elevating people with lower-incomes into homeownership (Cervero, 2007) or allowing others the option to purchase more adequate housing, increase spending on local services and entertainment or save for future education and personal training. This has a doubling effect on the economic conditions of the surround city as less tax revenue would be needed to construct and maintain roadways, increasing tax revenue from new spending and limits lost productivity from time delays and pollution-related illnesses while increasing overall satisfaction of the public.

Dominance of the Automobile

The automobile has dominated personal transportation since the advent of the Ford Model T in 1908. Through the 1920s, Henry Ford’s assembly line manufacturing allowed for efficient production of affordable vehicles while his business policies provided his employees with the ability to purchase one easily, generating his own local and controllable demand (Wells, 2007).   The automobile remains the most sought after form of transit, private or public, because of the comfort, convenience and control it provides (Springer, 2010a) and is so attractive that Canadian spend on average 20% of their pre-tax income to possess these benefits – an amount second only to shelter and greater than food (Statistics Canada, 2008).

 

The post-war period of economic and population growth in the 1950s resulted in a large demand for new housing, mostly developed in cheap, low-density tracts of land on the outskirts of cities (Miller, 2006, p.105). The unchecked sprawl of development limited where new employment opportunities and public amenities were able to be established, many locating well outside of the encampment area of conventional private transportation (Bhat, Sen & Eluru, 2009). New financial clout from booming times saw people gravitate away from public transit – seen as inadequate and inconvenient and used only by the poor (Mensah, 1994) – towards the use of vehicles which were more comfortable, offered as a symbol of social class and provided control over the when and where of commuting (Wells, 2007).

 

With more than seventy percent of Canadian now using the automobile as primary means of transportation (Statistics Canada, 2001) and the sparse design of new suburban neighbourhoods being inefficient for the development of effective mass transit (Smith, 2006) governments focus infrastructure spending on roads and highways and provided subsidies to local communities to maintain them. Seen as an integral part of the Canadian economy, the auto industry enjoys capital subsidies and tax deductions with lax leasing regulations to encourage automobile manufacturing and market demand (Hanson, 1992). Along with businesses offering cars as perks to employment and the lack of immediate and noticeable externalities to car ownership – fiscal or environmental – demand for this mode of transportation continues to sustain.

Housing as a Product

Housing is a product of both private and public processes combining to create a good that is fixed, consumable and a measure of economic status and health (Springer, 2010b & 2010c). Driven by market forces, private industries supply the material and end-product while being overseen by public forces to guide development, location, use and expectations. In addition, public processes ensure that both the product and its end-user can both obtain and benefit from homeownership while providing alternatives for those who cannot (Rose, 1980).

 

A major mitigating factor to housing that is it is statically linked to its location. This location must offer not only intrinsic benefits such as geographic proximity communities, but tactile natural features, including sought-after views and nearby recreational amenities to provide value (Millward, 2006). Services must also be readily available to appease basic living conditions, such as running water, sewage, educational facilities, employment opportunities, easily adequate transportation, accessible goods and services and allotment for religious structures (Leo & Anderson, 2006). While the location may be static, its community can be dynamic, either growing with density through redevelopment or expansion, or shrinking with loss of industry or natural disaster.  Since most housing is affixed to property, durability of the product must be guaranteed, not only to provide safe, sound and sanitary conditions but for continued appreciation of value. Regular maintenance allows a home to last 50 years on average with revitalization extending it indefinitely (Springer, 2010b). Using regulation to enforce a variable mix of units ensures that all members of society have their specific need for shelter met.

 

In Canada, housing is the single most expensive individual procurement (Statistics Canada, 2008), often amortized over a lifetime and heavily debt-financed (Harris, 2006). The location and durability of housing ensures that it is a viable asset to borrow against – crucial for consumers who now hold almost one trillion dollars in outstanding mortgage debt (Dunning, 2010). Forecasting demand and controlling supply allows for a market that not only provides the need for a rolling stock of shelter but ensures affordability at a level most middle-class families can readily afford – constituting a large and crucial section of our national economy (Knaap, 2003). Failing to develop and control the product from both public and private perspective leads to a market bubble and eventual collapse – where those in demand can no longer afford to retain their shelter and those in supply can no longer able to afford production – devastating the economy and creating a downward spiral effect on the community and existing equity (Hulchanski, 2006). There is no more pronounced example of this failure than the United States in past three years.

Sprawl – Housing and Transportation

A critical concern influencing housing is that we are publicly avid about what we should and aspire to have but privately demand satisfaction of our personal wants. We seek cheap housing with high return on our investment; we want this housing to be open and spacious while in a compact and lively urban setting; and we want ease of access to amenities and employment without the drawbacks and costs of installing a transportation infrastructure to ease congestion. Left unregulated, private developers are more than ready to meet our demands knowing full well that services and networks are of the public realm, instigating sprawl against our wishes to maintain picturesque rural landscapes (Poulton, 1995). Individual behaviour is always at odds with individual expectation and the optimum for the collective, requiring public oversight and regulation to provide a middle ground.

 

As redevelopment of former employment areas is complicated and time-consuming process and brown-lands require years to ensure contaminated soil has safely settled or been removed (O’Reilly & Brink, 2006), assembly-line production is the most cost-effective methodology of development, consisting of cookie-cutter houses on vast tracts land (Harris, 2004). In North America, flat and rolling Class A agricultural land that surrounds urban areas are prime for such economies of scale and are attractive to purchasers who see the city as too expensive, crowded or unsafe and to developers who require large, efficient margins on their investment. But, without proper planning of mixed-use zoning, new residents to these developments required an automobile to reach employment areas, attend school and obtain services and sundries (Bhat, Sen & Eluru, 2009). The transportation network between nodes needs to be built quickly to meet growing demand and with little capital finances provided from tax revenue of cheaper housing, paved roads are often seen as a cheap solution to expansion forcing retailers to build big-box stores surrounded with ample parking to attract customers (Jones & Hernadez, 2006).

 

Land-use planning can be used to break this chaos, by first creating and preparing these edge cities with a location for shops, offices, transportation and services with adequate and sufficient housing for the intended population. By limiting the outer extent of the city through urban growth boundaries – such as the greenbelt retention in Ontario – and ensuring concurrent growth strategies mixed with smart development, we can limit the effects of externalities such as pollution and congestion and encourage transit-oriented developments designed around alternative modes of private transportation. Deliberately influencing the style and mode of growth not only improves the quality of life citizens, but provides a secure and sound community insulated from future fiscal and infrastructure constraints now apparent in older suburban areas (Geller, 2003).

References

Bhat, C., Sen, S. & Eluru, N. (2009, July). The impact of demographics, built environment attributes, vehicle characteristics, and gasoline prices on household vehicle holdings and use. Transportation Research: Part B 43(1). 1-18.

 

CAA (2007). Your Driving Costs 2007. Canadian Automobile Association. Retrieved from

http://www.caa.ca/documents/2007-04-27_DrivingCostsBrochure2007.pdf.

 

Cervero (2007, September) Transit-oriented development’s ridership bonus: a product of self-selection and public policies. Environment & Planning A, 39(9). 2068-2085.

 

Dunning, W. (2010, January). Revisiting the Canadian Mortgage Market – Risk is Small and Contained. Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.caamp.org/meloncms/media/CAAMP%20%20Winter%20Report%20Black.pdf

 

Downs, A. (1992). Stuck in Traffic. Brookings Institution. WashingtonD.C. 27.

 

Geller, A. (2003, September). Smart Growth: A Prescription for Livable Cities. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9). 1410-1415.

 

Hanson, M. (1992, January). Automobile subsidies and land use. Journal of the American Planning Association 58(1). 60-72.

 

Harris, R. (2004). Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960. University of Toronto Press. Toronto.

 

Harris, R. (2006). Housing: Dreams, Responsibilities and Consequences. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 272-286.

 

Hulchanski, J. D. (2006) What Factors Shape Canadian Housing Policy? The Intergovernmental Role in Canada Housing System. In Canada: The State of the Federation 2004: Municipal-Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada. McGill Queen’s University Press. Kingston. 221-250.

 

Jackson, J. (2003, September). The Impact of the Built Environment on Health: An Emerging Field. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1382-1384.

 

Jones, K. & Hernandez, T. (2006). Dynamics of the Canadian Retail Environment. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 287-305.

 

 

Knaap, G. (2003). Land Supply and Infrastructure Capacity Monitoring for Smart Urban Growth. University of Maryland. College Park, MD.

 

Leo, C. & Anderson, K. (2006). Being Realistic about Urban Growth. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 393-407.

 

Mensah, J. (1994). Gender, spatial constraints and the employment activities of low-income people in a local labour market. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 3. 113-133.

 

Miller, E. J. (2006). Transportation and Communications. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 102-122.

 

Millward, H. (2006). Metropolitan Form and the Environment. In Canadian Cities in Transition: Local Through Global Perspectives. ThirdEd.OxfordUniversity Press. Toronto. 363-378.

 

O’Reilly, M. & Brink, R. (2006) Initial Risk-Based Screening of Potential Brownfield Development Sites. Soil and Sediment Contamination, 15(5).  463-470.

 

Poulton, M. (1995). Affordable Homes at an Affordable Social Price. In Home Remedies: Rethinking Canadian Housing Policy. C D Howe Institute. Toronto. 50.

 

Renne, J. (2009). From transit-adjacent to transit-oriented development. Local Environment, 14(1). 1-15.

 

Rose, A. (1980) Canadian housing policies. Butterworths. Toronto. 2.

 

Springer, J. (2010a). Transportation Module: The Role of Transportation Traffic Congestion Definitions & Implications [PowerPoint]. Toronto.

 

Springer, J. (2010b). Housing as a Product [PowerPoint]. Toronto.

 

Springer, J. (2010c). Housing as a Process [PowerPoint]. Toronto.

 

Statistics Canada (2001). Census of Canada. Government of Canada. Ottawa.

 

Statistics Canada (2008). Spending Patterns In Canada, #62-202-XIE. Government of Canada. Ottawa.

 

Wells, C. (2007, July). The Road to the Model T: Culture, Road Conditions, and Innovation at the Dawn of the American Motor Age. Technology & Culture, 48(3). 497-523.