The Cridge Centre for the Family’s involvement in the field of brain injury started in 1988 with Macdonald House, a 10-bed residence for the brain injury survivors. During these 32 years, over 50 survivors have called Macdonald House home. We believe we have been and are successful in the support that we provide.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of brain injury survivors that reside in Greater Victoria and would benefit from strong housing support. The Cridge Centre has been a community leader in all the programs that we offer. As leaders, we need to address lagging social issues and provide positive solutions. From the perspective of mental health, addictions, and brain injury, it is very encouraging to witness this provincial government’s positive steps to purchase housing (The former Comfort Inn, Paul’s Motor Inn and possibly Oak Bay Lodge) in Victoria to house homeless population of our community. According to stats, over 52% of the homeless population are survivors of a brain injury. The intentions are good. Unfortunately, the positive outcomes have not quite come into fruition. With a couple of additions/program tweaks the plan to successfully house those targeted can be achieved.
I took the opportunity to submit this Op-Ed to the Times Colonist and am sharing it with you:
“Our Homelessness Situation: Positive Solutions to further Positive Outcomes
The current government, specifically, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, through BC Housing is to be congratulated for purchasing local motels and investigating the possibilities of refurbishing recently vacated LTC facilities in efforts to help and house the homeless. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions, challenges are arising within these new facilities. On Al Ferraby’s Morning Show, Love Dodd, owner of Dodd’s Furniture, shared about the negative impact of the homeless being transitioned to the Comfort Inn site. For local businesses in the area, there has been a significant increase in vandalism, break-ins, and common areas have been fouled. Sadly, an owner has been threatened with physical harm. View Royal Mayor David Screech posted on his Facebook page that Oak Bay residents are resisting the idea of the conversion of the recently vacated Oak Bay Lodge for the Homeless community.
It is crucial that there are positive steps taken to assist those on the fringes of our society, so they do not become the targets of community backlash. The ghettoization of the disenfranchised has never been a solution to a social problem. Support for this population benefits from allies as opposed to adversaries. This can be achieved by committed programming support and establishing strategic alliances. There is a requirement for the initial financial investment. But its value of positive outcomes will far outweigh long term costs.
Instead of housing these new facilities with 100% of the homeless population, we should consider an integrated model. The average population consists of one in five being a person with a disability. It is clearly identified that the homeless population being supported is impaired with a disability. The majority are living a mental health, addiction and/or a brain injury.
There are community models of successfully integrated housing. For example, there is “Independent Living with Support”. Survivors of a brain injury living in their own apartment in a building that includes market renters. This model develops a community. Instead of the stigma of being a person with a disability, survivors are just one of the renters. They are supported with specific life skill training and they blend in as opposed to sticking out. At the same time, market renters are exposed to survivors of a brain injury. Perhaps they are passing in the hallway, riding the elevator, saying “hi” while picking up their mail. There is the realization that these individuals are not to be feared. Survivors have suffered misfortune and they are trying to improve. Through positive interactions, these market renters become our allies. Instead of becoming a “mini, segregated institution,” The Comfort Inn facility could be a rich, diverse population if we designated 60% of the units to non-disabled individuals. Providing reasonably priced rents could attract a strong cross-section of our community. This market could include university students, new immigrants to Canada or those on a limited or fixed employment income.
By integrating a facility like the Comfort Inn, we lose direct beds for the homeless population. This can be alleviated by encouraging a Continuum of Care. The Comfort Inn beds need not be a forever home. As we house those with mental health, addictions issues and/or a brain injury, we must encourage and support them to continue their positive journey toward recovery. The provision of life skills support and job development training will provide tools for these residents to become more independent, positive, productive, contributing members of our community. With these wrap-around services, these individuals will move on from the Comfort Inn, freeing up a residence and maintaining continual flow through.
If you talk to those who are homeless, you will hear stories of misfortune occurring to them that have led to their becoming homeless. An abusive partner, opioid addiction to manage pain to address a sports injury or a headfirst tumble off a bike can happen to anyone at any time. No matter the causes, committed investment in the lives of brain injury survivors will be a success for everyone in our community.
As we move forward to serve and improve our community take the time to be an advocate. Our experience, knowledge, and commitment to help are valued voices and opinions that need to be shared.”
By Geoff Sing, Manager of The Cridge Brain Injury Services
To learn more about The Cridge Brain Injury Services, visit this page.