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Results: 2521 - 2535 of 2664
Lillian MacMellon
View Lillian MacMellon Profile
Lillian MacMellon
2009-05-12 13:33
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, members of the committee.
I'm a member of the board and volunteer director of operations of the Karing Kitchen, in downtown Moncton. I have been a volunteer in the city for 50 years for several non-profit organizations. My passion has mainly been directed towards the poor and the vulnerable in our communities.
A United Church minister and I met back in 1985 to discuss the need to feed the homeless, seniors, children, people on social assistance, and the disabled. We formed a board of directors and opened a soup kitchen in the basement of St. John's United Church. It was open five days per week. We hired a cook and the churches agreed to send volunteers to help us every day.
In the first years of operation, we served between 50 and 75 meals each day, mainly soup and sandwiches. We soon discovered that for many, this lunch was the only meal of the day, so we began serving a full dinner every day. Today, we average 400 meals per day. We have one cook, a manager, and some volunteers, mostly seniors.
In the summer, we have been fortunate to be able to apply for four students to replace the seniors, who move out to the shore. Now we are losing one of our student positions. Our numbers increase in the summer months because we see more transients and schoolchildren, so not having these students puts a lot of pressure on our staff.
You ask how we measure poverty. We measure by the number of meals we serve and the clients who form a line all around our social hall, waiting for their meal at 11 a.m. every day. Some of these clients have been coming to our kitchen since the day we opened our doors 24 years ago. We are the only family they are connected to. We treat them with respect and provide a warm greeting and a listening ear.
Recently, we have seen an increase in clients, with some of them returning home from Alberta, where their employment opportunities ended. We are unable to keep statistics due to a shortage of staff. We are unable to hire anyone due to a shortage of finances.
I applaud the federal government for implementing some programs over the years that have helped us to look after our clients. In the year 2001, we received a grant from Human Resources Development Canada under the homelessness file to refurbish our kitchen in order to better serve our clients. Harvest House, a transition residence, and the Moncton YMCA ReConnect program for homeless people and youth at risk of becoming homeless also received funding that year.
This past year, Mrs. Claudette Bradshaw has been establishing her office for work on a research project on homelessness and mental health. We feel strongly that this program is exactly what is needed by some of our clients suffering with mental health issues. They need someone who cares and understands what these individuals are experiencing every day.
However, I am very concerned about what is happening in our growing city. It is my understanding that funding for Harvest House and the YMCA ReConnect program has been discontinued and they face the possibility of closure. These two important organizations help a lot of our clients.
The Karing Kitchen is in the basement of a church. We pay a small rent of only $360 per month, which barely covers the power and heat that we use. We had two small bathrooms. They were outdated and did not meet the standards for the disabled. Therefore, we had to add new bathroom facilities this past year due to the high volume of clients we see every day. We have applied to the federal and provincial governments for help with this $50,000 renovation. So far, we have not been successful.
The only funding we receive each year is $18,000 from the provincial government and $5,000 from the municipal government. We must rely on the community every year to raise the funds needed to keep operating.
We were the first soup kitchen to open in Moncton in 1985. In the Greater Moncton Area, we now have two kitchens, a mobile bus, and 23 food banks all competing for the same dollars. We need financial help and we have not been successful with the federal or provincial governments.
I am certainly not qualified to give you advice on how the government can reduce poverty. I can only relate to you some of our success stories that we have experienced over the years. They all come down to the fact that we cared for these people when they were without work. We fed them and encouraged them and, eventually, some of them found work. The rewarding part happens when they return with a cheque to express their thanks our help at a low period in their lives.
One particular story that touches our hearts is an individual who came to the kitchen every day for 10 years. He helped us carry heavy boxes, cleaned the floors, and would gladly do anything we asked of him. He couldn't find work because he couldn't read or write to fill out the forms. However, we nominated him for volunteer of the year with the City of Moncton. He was chosen and, shortly afterwards, because of the exposure he was given, someone gave him a job. Again, this has done so much for his self-esteem that he no longer has to rely on social assistance.
This is only one of the many success stories we have experienced at the kitchen over the years. It may seem small, but we feel that this part of the program works best for us: treating them with dignity, plus boosting their self-esteem.
One of the major complaints we hear at the kitchen from clients is that they can't reach their social workers. I really think the province needs more social workers and more mental health doctors. This is where the ReConnect program helps a lot of individuals find the help they need.
We see more and more young people on drugs, and also an increase in break-ins, which we feel are related to the drug scene.
I have read the 2009-10 budget of the Government of Canada, and I see millions of dollars being allocated for social housing, the working income tax benefit, and the EI benefit. All of that is positive, but when it comes to the food banks, I see the establishment of another independent task force. Unfortunately, that will not help us at the present time. When Minister Bradshaw held the homelessness portfolio, we were told there were millions left to help us, but when we try to obtain the funds, we are told that none are available.
You ask if current federal resources for reducing poverty can be deployed more effectively.I say yes. When an organization such as Karing Kitchen is trying to help some of these individuals stand on their own two feet, we need the help of the federal or provincial government. We feel that the community just can't help any more than it does at present. Therefore, if we don't receive any help from the government, we will be forced to close our doors. What will happen then to these vulnerable members of our society?
I thank you for the opportunity to express our concerns to your committee. I wish you much success with your meeting.
View Michael Savage Profile
Lib. (NS)
I think we've moved from looking at government support for social infrastructure as charity to seeing it as justice, and maybe now we're at the point of seeing it as an investment as well. If we look at the countries that do invest in what I call the social infrastructure, they also do well economically. They have lower rates of illiteracy, etc.
I would like to talk about mental health for young people.
Brian, we mentioned to you very briefly before that we were at Metro Turning Point shelter yesterday with Michael Poworoznyk. He appeared at our committee, and then we went to have a look. They have a capacity of 75 beds, dormitory-style. There are men sleeping there. Somebody from the committee asked what percentage of his clients would have mental health issues or addictions, and there was a chart that showed 50% for mental health.
He said if you look at it, how do you diagnose these, necessarily? It's difficult to really know, but I think he said yesterday that he guessed it would be 90% to 95%, because if you didn't have those issues when you got there, after spending night after night in the same room with 60 or 70 other men, and listening to people with hallucinations and waking up in the middle of the night, you would end up with them.
On youth--and John, you mentioned this too--how do we do mental health better for young people? How do we get to the point of diagnosing it and treating it so that we don't criminalize them further down the road and have them end up dealing with Kelly and her organization or the Elizabeth Fry Society or something?
Are there any specific ideas and investments in mental health for young people so that we can make a difference?
Brian Duplessis
View Brian Duplessis Profile
Brian Duplessis
2009-05-12 11:12
I would throw the number 60% out, and much like the chap you're talking about in Halifax, I would say it's much higher.
We see the results of the children who didn't get the mental health help, and who perhaps have never been diagnosed or who have multiple mental illnesses at the same time and then addictions on top. We see the mixture of all that, but we have also seen directly some of the younger people. When I say younger, I mean as young as 16. We'll take 16-year-olds into our shelters. I'm very unhappy when someone who's 16 shows up at either of our shelters, and I get directly involved before they can come in. We do everything to keep them out, but we have them at 16 to 18 years old. Everybody's given up on them.
Some of it starts in the school system. There are opportunities, I believe, to identify and provide those services through the school system, through the medical system, to start to diagnose and work with the children at that young age. I'll give you one example.
We had a young man who was 20 years old. He was with us a few months last year. His mother had taken him out of the school in the Fredericton area when he was eight years old. He was in grade three. The school found him unmanageable, so she took him home to home-school him, and she home-schooled him up to 16.
There were no medical interventions. Her husband refused to admit that there was any real problem and had challenges there. Nobody followed up. I had many conversations with the mother and father in this case. He's back home at the moment, getting some help, but once she took him out of the school, I was told, there were no other approaches. She said, “I'm going to home-school him because that makes it easier for everyone.” They weren't getting the calls from the school to have to try to deal with the problems, all the difficulties he was in, and he was just abandoned.
I think an awful lot of children, one way or another, who aren't receiving the treatment, are effectively abandoned, either to go home like that, or, if they stay within the system, they're just manoeuvred and shoved through, and given a little assistance here and there, as teachers say “let's move them and get them out of my classroom” to the next one to the next one.
It's a sad commentary, but it's an observation based on the experience that we've seen.
Dan Weston
View Dan Weston Profile
Dan Weston
2009-05-12 11:14
There is one measurement of poverty that sticks out in my mind. In 1974, what a single welfare recipient received to live on was reduced from $254 to $100 a month, and it stayed that way for years. Today it has just recently gone up to about $290. If you measure that in constant dollar value, a single person on welfare was much better off in New Brunswick in 1974 than he or she is today.
Second, in terms of what to do about the situation involving people who suffer from not being able to mentally adjust to poverty, the state seems to be willing to spend a lot of money on what I call the psychosocial industry, and it deals with that situation rather than giving any money to the people. Really, anybody would go half nuts if they had to live on a welfare cheque for the rest of their lives, which is the way it seems. In New Brunswick, we say that when you're on welfare, well then, it's just farewell to you, because you're never going to get off it.
So really, the situation is whether the government is willing to commit to finance and money to help this situation. They've taken a lot out of employment insurance. You would think it's time to give some of that back. I think if a lot of money were spent and a lot of other programs were introduced, that would help to ensure people's ability to work. In New Brunswick, for example, we have a large construction industry, in proportion to other industries in New Brunswick. Decimating employment insurance here in New Brunswick was extremely difficult on people who owned businesses who were trying to keep things going, because they weren't able to keep their crews. If the crew was laid off for a while because there was a shortage of work because the person didn't have a whole lot of contracts, they knew that employment insurance would keep their crew around in the local area and they could get them back and make some money. One of the hardest things to do is to find a crew you can train and then keep.
In a lot of ways, governments, federal and provincial both, have failed to really have a kind of macro outlook as to what they are doing. They keep thinking it's just a little band-aid type of problem. As this gentleman just said here, now we've gotten to the point where we think if we put in some money to help people out, it would be an investment in terms of working more dollar value for the state. Indeed, it would be. It really would be the opportunity to do this on a large scale. You know, we're one of the richest countries in the world, and we happen to have a large problem with poverty. There are only three people per square mile. Do you mean to tell me that we can't keep these people productive and involved in society and fit and mentally healthy and eating proper food? What's happening? Are we allowing the whole infrastructure of this country to just disappear? That's the way it seems to be going.
Bernard Richard
View Bernard Richard Profile
Bernard Richard
2009-05-12 11:17
On the mental health issue, what kind of brought it home to me last year was a mom who's the mother of one of the girls and youth we followed for a couple of years in preparing our report, Connecting the Dots. She looked at me and said that she wished her daughter had had cancer instead of schizophrenia, because then she would know that she would have gotten treatment and help.
To me, that kind of says it all. We look at mental illness in a different way than we do physical illness. We spend a lot of money on physical illness. Your dad was a doctor, I think. We spend a ton of money. I think we compare well--there's a big debate on that--to the rest of the world. Yet, when it comes to mental illness, we don't like to talk about it. Even in families we don't like to talk about it. If someone in our family has cancer, we rally around. We say that by God, we're going to beat this. But if someone has schizophrenia or autism, it's like we're on our own. The same kind of support is not there.
So I think we have to look at mental illness more as we do other kinds of illnesses. I'm sure Michael Kirby will give you a lot to think about in the next few years. He's been given support now much more, and I think that will be helpful. But on the issue of the stigma attached to mental illness and all of that, she said it all in just a few seconds last year at about this time.
I think that's a big challenge. We should be addressing these issues, not ignoring them. We pay the price. We pay the price as taxpayers, family members, and society. Where do they end up? They end up in Brian's place, or they end up in prison, where it costs $100,000 a year for not treating them, and they'll come back over and over again. We see that in our office every day.
View Dean Allison Profile
Thanks, Bernard.
I know we had Mr. Kirby out to our committee over the last couple of weeks. That was exactly his point: awareness. Even the fact that we're talking about it more is a good first step, but there's more that needs to happen. And being able to talk about it is one of those first steps, as opposed to hiding it or keeping it in the background. We really appreciated having this testimony.
I'm going to move over to Madame Beaudin for seven minutes, please.
View Josée Beaudin Profile
Thank you, Mr. chair. Do I have an hour? There are so many things that I want to talk about.
I would like to continue on the same topic since it is very relevant. I have a question for each one of you but the first one is for Mr. Duplessis and is on the issue of shelters.
Yesterday, we met with the director of a shelter in Nova Scotia and I was telling him that we have similar shelters in Quebec. I am a Quebec MP. One of the major problems we have with those shelters is that it is very hard to ensure some follow-up when people leave a shelter.
I have two questions for you. You seemed to say that existing programs relating to homelessness as well as grants for partnership initiatives were only aimed at the physical infrastructure, at housing.
Can you give us more information about this? Did you mean that this does not really meet all your needs?
You would also need funding for human resources and for providing some professional follow-up to the people you deal with, I suppose?
Brian Duplessis
View Brian Duplessis Profile
Brian Duplessis
2009-05-12 11:21
If I understand the question correctly, there is no coordination to follow the individuals, to provide supervisory support, until a real crisis occurs, and even then usually it's a band-aid that's used. I know a lot of work has been done in Montreal, for example, with the Old Brewery Mission. Jim Hughes, who's now our Deputy Minister of Social Development, was running the Old Brewery Mission. He developed programs to help transition people from the shelter into the community, and then to follow them as well, and I think that's what you're asking.
There is also an interesting model in New Brunswick, in Saint John, from the Salvation Army Booth Centre. They have the shelters, but they also have a nurse practitioner who comes into the shelter to provide support. They also obtain apartments and rooming houses in the community, so if someone comes into their facility, they work with them, develop them. They take conservancy, they take responsibility for the person, so a person signs over, to be their trustee. Then they help them live in the community, and they follow them. If they're in a rooming house or a bachelor apartment, they make sure they continue to get the support and services they need. It's an interesting model, but I know they struggle all the time as to how to fund it, how to support it.
The Salvation Army has a rich 100-year history of helping people with their most basic needs, and we're trying to work with them, to learn from them, to see what we can do as well. But it's within the government sphere and all of the services that exist that we're missing that coordination.
To really help those who are at the bottom of the bottom, we have to be thinking of housing first, and maybe you've heard this expression before. If somebody doesn't have housing, doesn't have a place to live--and I'm not talking about a shelter--nothing else matters. They're trying to get by each day, to survive in the environment of a shelter, to survive to get something to eat. If they have some housing, that basic little room, that apartment, then that starts to become the transition that takes place. But if the basic welfare rates are so low that you can't even afford a room in the community, that doesn't even start to take place.
I would like to say, as a bit of a follow-on to what Dan said about money and solving poverty, that we can talk about programs, we can talk about structure, but money comes to the root of it. At $294 a month, you're going to supply all these other programs, but the person can't live in a room, even, by themselves. In New Brunswick they've just frozen those rates again this year because of the economic situation.
I would challenge you and I would challenge the provincial government to try to think of economics a little differently. I think this makes sense. Whenever I talk about it, people seem to think it does.
We want economic stimulus in the country and we want it fast. There's lots in the news about the big economic stimulus package that isn't getting moving, all the infrastructure. If you want economic stimulus to happen, and you want money in the system, give it to the poor people. For the person making $294 a month, make it $400 or $500. Every penny of that will go into the system again, will get circulated quickly. Give it to organizations that are trying to provide the support. We will spend every penny of it. We won't hold it. We'll spend it immediately. You'll see your two-month, three-month, four-month economic stimulus come from that money much faster than from trying to get the agreements from the levels of government to build a new bridge, to refurbish this, to do that--which is all great, but we're saying we're in a crisis situation. Put the money in the hands of those who are going to spend it on the basic needs and services of surviving.
You'll have the economic side of it. And you know what? We'll all feel good about the fact that we're doing the right thing. When we're talking about doing these things, we still have to come back to that base. We need to do the right thing for those who are really suffering in our communities. We are not doing the right thing. We are not supporting them. We're paying it lip service over and over again.
Did that answer any of your questions, or did I just get on my soapbox again?
View Josée Beaudin Profile
Thank you very much.
Mr. Bernard Richard: You are welcome.
View Ed Komarnicki Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
That's a fair point. I think what I hear is that many are saying there's a lot that you know, but it's action you're looking for, and some positive steps.
On a less serious note, in the last round it was said that many politicians do a lot of blowing in the wind, so to speak, and you were saying it's with heads in the sand, and I suppose that's partly true. Some would displace more sand than others, but the fact of the matter is that it is a serious issue. I think my colleague said there's a bit of a transformation in thinking, in not looking at dealing with the roots of poverty as a matter of charity but as a matter of social justice, and really also as an investment in our social infrastructure.
I take note of your words, Kelly, when you say that when you look at the health costs we have, and the criminal justice system.... I was a lawyer in my former career and I know something about the costs associated with the justice system. When we put that together, we could, by trying to deal with the root causes much earlier, actually save some money if we were prepared to make that investment.
I do appreciate that treating the individual, the whole person, takes more effort. It will take more moneys to do that rather than to just look at it as a black and white issue, which maybe we have been doing from point to point.
My initial question is to Mr. Richard. Senator Kirby talked to us about mental health issues, about some of the stigma and misunderstanding there, and how we might deal with that. But could you describe what you see in terms of young people with issues falling through the cracks? Can you describe what you see as the inadequacies now? Also, maybe you can describe some of the practical things we might consider in fixing those gaps. Then I'll move on to some other areas.
Bernard Richard
View Bernard Richard Profile
Bernard Richard
2009-05-12 11:38
Certainly, I would refer your clerk to our report that we published last year, Connecting the Dots, in which we addressed a lot of those issues. All of the recommendations were accepted by the provincial government. Some of them are being implemented now.
I think there's a lot more here than I can talk about in a few moments, but certainly identifying mental health issues early on and intervening in the right way--these are solutions. All too often, youth dealing with addiction or mental health issues act out, obviously, but the response to that is usually the criminal justice system, not treatment. They're not diverted away from the criminal justice system.
I think that takes the right training. I think it takes youth mental health courts. There's a pilot in Ottawa now, which I'll be visiting on Friday. I hope it really takes off, because I think it's a wonderful approach to diverting youth away from the criminal justice system into treatment. It's multi-disciplinary and multi-departmental so that people are not working in silos. They're actually working together. Once a youth is identified with a mental health issue, that youth is directed away from the criminal justice system into treatment.
If we can do that, if we can identify early enough and provide the right response, then they won't be coming back time and time and time again, so that people like you and me, as former lawyers, can make a living at representing these people. We'll be providing treatment. They won't be going to prison, where they become better criminals. In prison, they're dealing with mental health issues, so they'll be coming back out and we'll be facing property crimes, theft, and violent crimes. In prison, they're just going back into the system, where it costs $100,000 a year just to hold them in a cell while they're not improving.
Solutions include early detection, early intervention, the right kinds of intervention, the diverting of youth dealing with mental health issues away from the criminal justice system into treatment, better coordinated efforts, and better sharing of information. As parents have told me, “My child with autism changed schools and it's like starting all over again.” There's no reason for that in a province like New Brunswick. Moving to a different region should not be like starting all over again. Those parents didn't know anything. They couldn't get the files from the other region. Privacy has become almost an obsession with civil servants; they're very nervous about it, and even when it's in the best interests of a child or a family to share information, they're not doing it.
I think there are solutions out there. There are really good models and good practices being established in all parts of the country. We just need to make sure that we're able to learn from them and support those kinds of models.
Patti Melanson
View Patti Melanson Profile
Patti Melanson
2009-05-11 13:38
I'll just comment briefly on that.
In regard to mental health and youth, it's very important for us to be looking at quick and immediate intervention to support not just youth but families.
There's been a bit of a shift. A federal study was done on the rates of sexually transmitted infections among street youth over a number of years. This was done by the Public Health Agency of Canada. One of the questions was about education. They were doing this study to find out about rates of sexually transmitted infections.
In that study came this real gold nugget--in Nova Scotia, anyway--that 72%, I think, of youth that we surveyed had only grade nine, had been kicked out because of lots of issues. At home it was really too much for family to handle them, and then they were out of the home and living on the streets, or living in a homeless situation.
I think that says something about the state of what families are needing to deal with and how they're having to manage. We need early intervention, and certainly programs that are directed towards that, not just for youth who have mental health issues but also, I believe, for families. We need to be doing a better job supporting families in their ability to parent, to support their children.
View Michael Savage Profile
Lib. (NS)
What percentage of the clients you have would have mental health and addiction issues?
Michael Poworoznyk
View Michael Poworoznyk Profile
Michael Poworoznyk
2009-05-11 11:05
The homelessness report card document probably indicates that pretty clearly. I would say that we have a very high percentage.
Is it in there?
Michael Poworoznyk
View Michael Poworoznyk Profile
Michael Poworoznyk
2009-05-11 11:05
Yes, the percentage that's listed there is 50%. But we have a difficulty in that whether or not a person is diagnosed becomes a critical part of whether or not that would necessarily get listed. In terms of self-reporting, they're often hiding it due to stigma. But when we think about functioning on an everyday level, interacting in relationships, most of the guys we're seeing at the shelter for men are definitely experiencing some mental health problem.
Just logically, if you think about your life and going into a shelter and the circumstances surrounding that, it would be very hard to avoid depression and, after a while, very hard to avoid anti-social personality kinds of things, just because of the nature of what happens and the unofficial codes of the street that people interact under. Those things are very difficult for people to understand, I think, if they haven't walked in those shoes.
So I would say that we probably have well over 95%, if not 100%, of people who are experiencing some sort of mental health issue.
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