All opinions and views stated on this site belong solely to Corina Lynn Becker, and do not represent or reflects the views and opinions of any organizations, unless otherwise specified.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Poverty and Affordable Housing

This may seem a bit off topic-ish, especially with the news about Wakefield going on. To be perfectly honestly, I'm not entirely surprised that he's been found to have changed the children's data and it really hasn't changed my opinion about him (see The Triggering of Wakefield). So I'm going to continue on and address an issue that affects a lot of people, not just Autistic people.

Poverty and homelessness is an issue that face Autistic people, as well as people with and without other disabilities. A concern for those with disabilities is whether homeless shelters, women's shelters and other services are supportive of their disabilities, and uncertainty may be a big factor in whether disabled people access such services. Which kinda creates a cycle unless it's specified that services are accessible to disabled people.

My government has been working to create unique programs and services for people with disabilities specifically. One of these has been the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), a social assistance program that provides the basics: a little over $500 for living costs such as food, telephone, etc, and up to $450 for rent, per month. It's basically a safety net for people with disabilities if they are between jobs, or recovering from a bad period, and the program even includes an Employment Support services, and will cover some additional medical costs, such as service dogs, diabetes supplies, breathing machines, etc.

For the other services it doesn't cover, being on ODSP qualifies people to other programs. There's a lot of paperwork involved, of course, and it requires people to be as productive as possible while describing their worst days. But one of those programs in my city is the centralized housing list for subsidized housing, since $450 doesn't get you a decent place to live in this area.

The problem is that there's a lot of people on that wait list. My city does a magazine, profiling restaurants, venues, and highlighting city issues. In the latest issue, it reports that as of July 2010, there are 1,133 applicants currently waiting for access to social housing. With the given rate of vacancies in the city, it can take at least six months for a three- or four-bedroom unit, or up to eight years for a single-room unit.

Obviously, there needs to be more available units and in the magazine article, the issues surrounding making decisions on where to build mixed-income housing is discussed. However, due to various difficulties (such as the city's own zoning and building restrictions), it can take up to eight years for many housing units to start being built. In the meanwhile, there's still a lot of people waiting for places to live and call home.

I faintly recall a few years ago a plan to start a portal subsidized housing. The idea is that people on the housing list can find a place to live on their own and get off the housing list a lot quicker.

It's like this: say I'm on the housing list. I've gone through the application process and have been approved for social housing. Instead of spending eight years couch-surfing or hopping between shelters or enduring abusive situations, I can look around for a place that meets my needs.

After some looking, I find a nice apartment that's easy for me to access the public transit system, a grocery store, as well as other services, or at least to be able to get to other services. I'm on ODSP though, and can only afford $450 a month, and the apartment is $750 a month.

I talk to the landlord/lady/person, and make an agreement with him that he'll hold the apartment while I apply to the housing list. Then I fill out a form, asking for support for the other $300 for rent from the social housing program. The landlord/lady/person and I fill out the details of the place, sign it, and submit it. If everything checks out, the housing list approves of it, and there you go, I have a place to live and I'm off the housing list a lot quicker.

Of course, I don't know all the specifics that this would have to be put into place, but I think it's better than a waiting game where one never knows when they're going to have a place to live. Also, it gives the people a sense of respect, dignity and control over their own fate.

Edit: minor editing over the difference between rent and ODSP; I really can't do math in my head.