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article imageOp-Ed: Toronto's Community Start Up ending will result in more homeless Special

By KJ Mullins     Sep 18, 2012 in World
Toronto - This week a homeless man, Joe, in Toronto is beginning a new journey. He received the keys to a small apartment yesterday that is the start of becoming more stabilized.
Those keys wouldn't have happened had there not been a Community Start Up fund in place. That fund will be gone in 2013.
Toronto has a wave of homeless and it's not getting any smaller. One of the best programs in the city for getting housing for those on the streets in Streets to Homes, the program that worked with Joe. The workers help clients meet with potential landlords and act as a buffer.
Many of the homeless have mental health issues making it almost impossible for them to meet with a landlord on their own. Their own delusions and general appearance may scare those with a place to rent. The Streets to Homes program has increased the number of landlords in the city willing to rent a home to street people needing a hand up. They assure the landlord that they will be continuing to work with their clients even after they have been housed.
One of the tools that the workers have had is letting landlords know that their rent cheques would be being paid directly from Ontario Works. That program like the Community Start Up fund will also be cut in January 2013.
Terry Peters with Street Health said during a phone interview that his agency believes that cutting these resources will lead to a lot of difficulty of the homeless when it comes to new housing. Peters said that outreach workers are anticipating an added wave of homelessness when the funds are no longer available.
"There are also cuts happening with shelters and community centres in Toronto. The resources just won't be there," Peters said.
The Community Start Up fund comes from the Ontario Works program. It provides a small safety net for recipients when they are moving into a new home. For single people the fund is almost $800 and for those with children it is $1,500. That money can be used to pay a portion of the first and last month rent requirement many landlords ask for. The fund can also help with furnishing a home, turning on hydro and the overall costs of moving.
Most people living on the street are unemployed or are part of the working poor. They often rely on disability cheques which do no allow for saving a nest egg. Even if they can find a place to live that they can afford covering two months rent is unreachable.
Let's look at Joe's case as an example. Joe deals with schizophrenia. He recently qualified for disability and is getting a cheque once a month for just over $1,000. To pay for first and last rent and food for a month Joe would have to find a home for under $400. Joe lives in Toronto and there are few places in that price range. Joe luckily was able to quality for the Community Start Up fund. He found a place for $700/all exclusive a month. The fund is paying for his last month rent and a few items he will need to set up a home.
Joe was also lucky that his new home came furnished with a sofa bed and table and chairs. He has support workers that are helping him with household goods.
Because Joe has the fund he will have a place to sleep that is safe. Joe will be able to buy groceries and cook for himself. He's on the path of getting stable even if his mental condition is not always stable. He will be able to go forward.
While budget cuts are needed to run the government the cuts that create bigger problems cost more in the end. Taking away a program that costs very little compared to the overall costs of homelessness to a city does not make financial sense. When the Start Up Fund is gone the costs of homelessness will increase even more.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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