case study  October 28 2013 Vancouver Sun: Time to rethink where and how to house Vancouver’s homeless?

Time to rethink where and how to house Vancouver’s homeless?

 Study suggests moving away from traditional SRO model towards individual apartments
By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun October 28, 2013

Mentally ill people placed in apartments scattered across the city break the law less and live happier lives compared to those put in hotel-style buildings, according to a national study on homelessness.

The finding is an intriguing one for Vancouver, where the majority of old and new social housing is in single rooms in multi-storey buildings in the Downtown Eastside.

Simon Fraser University Prof. Julian Somers, lead investigator of the Vancouver arm of the national At Home study, said letting people choose where they live might make them more determined to change.

“We don’t ever really ask homeless people: if we could put you in market housing, where would you like to go,” Somers said.

“They can use judgment in selecting a place that is good for social adaptation and health.”

In Vancouver, between 2009 and March 2013, the At Home study put 200 hard-to-house, mentally ill people in apartments throughout the city, 100 in the Bosman hotel downtown, and left 200 on the street as the control group.

The project gave participants a home first and then provided in-depth medical and social support to help them stabilize.

Early analysis of the study results predictably showed those with housing fared better than those on the street who relied much more heavily on emergency services.

But the results also suggest top outcomes for participants living in regular apartments beside other city residents in a variety of neighbourhoods: from the West End to Kitsilano to Grandview-Woodland.

The Bosman hotel on Howe Street housed 100 study participants in rooms similar to most SRO (single room occupancy) social housing buildings in the Downtown Eastside, but offered more extensive in-house medical and support services.

“The (control group) is associated with the worst outcomes, including quality of life,” Somers said. “(The scattered apartments) are associated with the best outcomes and the Bosman is in the middle.”

Compared to Bosman residents, those in the scattered apartments:

• Visited hospital emergency rooms less.

• Had fewer criminal convictions.

• Reported a better quality of life, including safety and living situations.

Somers believes those in the scattered apartments may have been inspired to change while living among everyday people who, generally, were leading healthier and more socially-involved lives.

“People were living in diverse neighbourhoods with standards and norms that had been developed over time. The (Bosman) setting consisted of people who left homelessness at roughly the same time. That may have made a difference,” he said.

But Liz Evans, executive director of the PHS Community Services Society, which manages the Bosman and other social housing buildings, maintained the study’s statistics can be misleading.

For example, she said it is not necessarily a bad thing that Bosman residents used emergency rooms more often because the building is a block away from St. Paul’s Hospital.

“They’ve got a really good relationship with the care providers at St. Paul’s, and they get really quick care and really great outpatient followup because our case managers are working really closely with the people at St. Paul’s,” Evans said.

———————————————————————————————————————————   May 28 2013 The Globe and Mail: To end poverty worldwide, fix African agriculture first

To end poverty worldwide, fix African agriculture first


Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, May. 28 2013, 7:46 AM EDT

Last updated Tuesday, May. 28 2013, 7:50 AM EDT

The public chorus to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 now includes U.S. President Barack Obama, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Bono. The backdrop is extremely promising since the developing world has already cut the share of people living in absolute poverty – that is, on less than the equivalent of $1.25 a day – by half since 1990. At a consistent rate of progress, the other half could well cross the line in another 20 years too.

But, as my colleague Laurence Chandy and his co-authors recently pointed out, the distance to crossing the absolute-poverty line varies tremendously by region. Most of China has already crossed the $1.25 threshold, and India has a huge share of its population poised to make the leap next. Sub-Saharan Africa has the farthest to go, despite recent progress, since a large proportion of its population still lives so far below $1.25 per day, often at half that level of income.

Most of Africa’s poorest people live on small farms in rural areas, so those places will likely form the final frontier of the global quest to end extreme poverty. Although fast-growing cities have gained attention for their role in fighting poverty, including in the World Bank’s latest Global Monitoring Report, it is increases in rural productivity, especially agriculture, that are typically a fundamental driver of the urbanization process.

There are grounds for optimism. Growing academic evidence highlights agriculture’s unique role in helping to reduce extreme poverty. For example, an important 2011 paper by economists Luc Christiaensen, Lionel Demery and Jesper Kuhl shows that agriculture is roughly three times more effective at reducing extreme poverty than non-agricultural sectors.

There has also been a global renaissance of attention on the need for an African Green Revolution, driven by both public and private investments in a manner that respects local community structures. The World Economic Forum’s Grow Africa initiative, which convened last week in Cape Town, offers a potential high-impact platform, bringing together investors and governments to launch practical joint strategies at scale.

Complementary investments in transport infrastructure, irrigation, farmer credit and input support systems (e.g. for fertilizer and seeds) were essential to Asia’s 20th century green revolutions, which laid the foundation for that region’s subsequent economic breakthroughs. The same basic approach, updated for today’s social and environmental realities, can help to ensure that Africa’s long-term economic success is equally, if not more, robust.

The sooner the process starts, the faster the world gets to the finish line on extreme poverty.

Author: John McArthur is Senior Fellow of the United Nations Foundation and a 2009 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. A version of this post was published on the World Economic Forum blog.

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