Given a Fair Chance
There is no place to rest our heads.
The moment of peace is so hard to find.
The dream dances away beyond our hopes
getting lost in the confusion of yesterday.
The clouds that seemed so gray,
appeared so vast and mighty,
in a length of a poem are gone.
Suddenly the sky is a perfect blue;
the sun shines a perfect white gold;
the air is a perfect blend of wet and dry.
This day now shines,
a perfect blend of space and time.
The place is here; the time is now.
There is no why; there is no how.
There is only stillness; there is only silence.
There is only life existing in this moment.
This moment is all we have;
this moment is all we need;
this moment is all we want.
The New Leaf Project
A Vancouver-based research project gave 50 homeless people $7,500 and tracked their progress for a year. Results were compared to a control group of 65 homeless people who received typical services. Those who received the money managed it well over the course of a year. They moved into stable housing after an average of three months, compared to an average of five month for the control group. Almost 70 per cent were food secure after one month. They spent 52 per cent of their money on food and rent, 15 per cent on other items such as medications and bills, and 16 per cent on clothes and transportation. Some were even able to retain over $1,000 after the 12 month period.
There was a lot of interesting additional data such as reduced spending on alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs by 39 per cent. Another is the monetary benefits for the Canadian taxpayer. Considering that it costs, on average, $55,000 annually for social and health services for one homeless individual, this type of intervention amounted to a huge saving. The project also saved the shelter system approximately $8,100 per person for a total of roughly $405,000 over one year for all 50.
These results are surprising and downright astounding. There were some guidelines for those chosen for the study that sheds some light on this type of intervention. For example, participants had to be free of serious substance abuse and mental health issues. This suggests that there are three classifications that we perhaps should go by when looking at intervention. Those with serious mental health problems need to be treated in a more intense program. Unfortunately, many of these people refuse to get help and prefer to stay away from social and mental health services. This is a serious problem with no simple solutions. We tried locking these people away in mental institutions and that did not work. The solution is complicated and labor intensive. The second group is the serious substance abuse group. Apart from providing safe injection facilities and shelter services, little can be done until these people want to be helped. As this study indicates, the third group might function best with a totally different approach. Providing a guaranteed income of $7500/year, may be all they need. Rather than micro manage their budgets and services, perhaps we should just trust that they will do what is best for themselves given a fair chance to get back on their feet. This would free up huge resources in social services and allow the social workers to focus on re-education and work opportunities. It just goes to show, that given a fair chance, people will intuitively do what is best for themselves.
They just need a compassionate helping hand.