News Items for May 11, 2017:

  • Garbage cans in Kensington designed to help bottle pickers and the environment
  • ‘This offers hope’: Affordable housing complex breaks ground in Banff
  • Health centre ‘cart parking’ offers safe area for homeless to keep belongings
  • Employed and homeless: Housing crisis in Nunavut hamlet forces shelter to expand
  • ‘Sobering’ findings in first-ever count of homeless population in St. John’s
  • Canada’s renewed commitment to housing
  • Government of Alberta joins organizations to end youth homelessness in Calgary
  • Calgary Scouts plant greenery, help homeless for Good Turn Week
  • Poverty reduction strategy seeks city support
  • Escape room game helps Indigenous youth evade life on the streets
  • Less poverty, not more medicine, will heal Canada’s health woes: O’Brien Institute guest André Picard
  • Study: Lack of apartment rentals leads to decline of affordable housing in Calgary


Garbage cans in Kensington designed to help bottle pickers and the environment

CBC News, April 27, 2017

There’s a new type of garbage can in Kensington and the hope is they’ll promote recycling and make life a bit easier for bottle pickers. The bins have a metal ring attached near the top which forms a sort of shelf for cans and bottles, with the goal of preventing empties from being tossed in the trash. “We are the first community doing this pilot project whereby we are encouraging people to put their bottles and cans on the perimeter of the garbage can,” said Elllen Parker, spokesperson for the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ). “This is just another way for us to showcase our commitment to the environment and our commitment to working together. I mean, even in terms of people who are less fortunate, it’s way easier for them to grab bottles this way and not dig around in the garbage.” Calgarian Adam Anderson likes the idea, but says better signage explaining how to use the rings would be helpful. “I don’t feel like it’s clear enough. If it was a different colour or better explanation, then maybe,” he said. The cans are a collaboration between the city and the Kensington BRZ.

‘This offers hope’: Affordable housing complex breaks ground in Banff. Community leaders say new rental accommodation will help alleviate mountain town’s housing crunch.

CBC News, April 28, 2017

A new affordable apartment complex in Banff will do a lot to alleviate the community’s housing crunch, officials say. Municipal and provincial politicians broke ground Thursday for the $24-million Deer Lane project, which will add 131 rental units in a town with a zero-per cent vacancy rate. “So, this offers hope, it offers optimism,” said Connie MacDonald, head of the Banff YWCA, which has an affordable housing program with a wait list of 35 to 75 people at any given time. “And not only for the people that are moving into this kind of building, but also just from an employer perspective being able to hire people and recruit people to come, who will actually stay because they can afford to make their lives here.” The province and the Town of Banff will each put $12 million toward the Deer Lane complex, which is expected to be finished late next year. Parks Canada is providing the land at below-market value. Ericson Dizon with the Filipino-Canadian Association of Bow Valley is also applauding the development. He says for those working in the hospitality industry, affordable rental units are badly needed. “This gives us an opportunity to stay here and live our life and make Banff our home,” he said. “I think this is good for everyone. This is a win-win situation for everyone, for the businesses and for us — those who are working in the hospitality business.”

Health centre ‘cart parking’ offers safe area for homeless to keep belongings

CBC News, May 1, 2017

Homeless people receiving care at Calgary’s Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre have some peace of mind knowing their belongings are being looked after while they are receiving treatment. Instead of leaving their belongings outside and unattended, they can keep them in a designated, safe parking spot in front of the building. The centre installed three cart-parking stalls in front of the east entrance a year ago and says complaints from the public are down as a result. “Our protective services officers do patrol the area, so these people can know that when they do come in and access services on our site that they can come out and actually still have their belongings,” said the centre’s site manager, Sherry Heather. “We have to care about all of our clients, every single person that comes in this door,” said Heather. “This is a way to show we care about all of our clients.” “There’s been a lot of uptake. We don’t find the carts left around the building anymore,” she said. When the carts are left in the stalls security guards keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not disturbed. “I just pray that nothing gets taken, the empties and the food,” says 22-year-old Lahtiesha Medicine Shield. “Now that I see how much stuff is in here and how much work went into it.” Everything she owns fills her old shopping cart. “This is our home to us,” she said.

Employed and homeless: Housing crisis in Nunavut hamlet forces shelter to expand

CBC News, May 2, 2017

By: Kate Kyle

Couch-surfing from place to place is something Donny Angulalek hopes he never experiences again. “You are in the way, a burden to other people,” says the 43-year-old Inuk man who, despite working full time at a grocery store in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is living in a homeless shelter. “It was pretty hard.” For the first time in five years, Angulalek knows he’ll get a hot meal and a warm bed every night.  “Things are looking up. At least someone out there cares for the homeless,” he says. He’s one of eight men, aged 30 to 70, living at a new men’s shelter, Omingmak Centre, which opened in February. The hamlet decided to take a housing-first response to help the growing number of homeless men in Cambridge Bay. It’s only the second of its kind in the territory — Iqaluit also has a men’s shelter. Cambridge Bay, with a population around 1,700, is the latest community in Nunavut to address the territory’s persistent housing crisis. Nunavut’s Housing Corporation estimates more than $1 billion worth of housing is needed to meet the territory’s current housing needs. As of last year, the corporation listed Cambridge Bay, the hub of the Kitikmeot region, as in “critical need.”

90 families on wait list for housing

Unlike in southern centres, it’s not always obvious who has a home and who doesn’t in Cambridge Bay. “You hear these incredible stories of 15, 20 people in a three-bedroom house,” says Marla Limousin, the hamlet’s senior administrative officer. “People have been living in cabins or even lean-tos.” As of March 2017, 90 families and individuals were on wait lists for the hamlet’s 266 units, according to the housing corporation. Cambridge Bay is slated to get 25 more units over the next few years. A housing unit opens up on average every two to three months — some people have been waiting up to 10 years. Just months after the homeless shelter opened, there’s already a wait list. Now the shelter is expanding — doubling the number of beds to 16 next year. “It’s a drop of water in a pool,” Limousin says. “If we can solve homelessness, we can start moving ahead on the other issues that are affecting a lot of community residents.”

‘They have hearts’

Anne Isnor, who grew up in Cambridge Bay, is the family violence co-ordinator for the hamlet’s wellness centre and is temporarily running the Omingmak Centre. She says single men are often at the bottom of the wait lists for public housing. Right now, 35 applicants are waiting for one-bedroom units in Cambridge Bay, according to the housing corporation. Isnor says homeless men in Cambridge Bay also struggle with addictions and mental health issues. Some cycle in and out of jail, others have been kicked out of a family home because of violence, while others are escaping violence. Many people are forced to couch surf, some ending up in party homes. “I lost a few jobs staying on someone’s couch,” says Angulalek. Isnor sympathizes with the homeless men. “They have hearts. They are human,” Isnor says. “We have men that are working, and you see them struggle, because it’s hard for them to get a house.”

Gaining life skills, access to counselling

The Omingmak Centre, a converted hamlet staff house, is bright and cozy. Two rooms house bunk beds; there’s a laundry facility on site, common room and kitchen. Shelter staff cook hot dinners and breakfast every weekday. The men take over cooking and cleaning on the weekends. “They can even learn to cook, even boil hot dogs,” laughs Isnor, who says learning basic life and job readiness skills are all part of getting the men back on their feet while they wait for housing. No alcohol or drugs are allowed. The men also have access to counselling and addiction programs at the community wellness centre. For Angulalek, that support has made all the difference. “That alcohol is pretty bad. It makes you think crazy and don’t care about anything,” he says. “But I am starting to say ‘no.'” Angulalek’s job stocking shelves at Cambridge Bay’s Co-op grocery store is the first steady full-time work he’s been able to keep in years. “No worry about having an empty stomach,” he smiles, while stocking ice cream.   “I can keep employment, have a steady place to go home to, a sober place.” And he can focus on getting healthy. “What does everyone want?” he says. “I want a good life.”

‘Sobering’ findings in first-ever count of homeless population in St. John’s

CBC News, May 02, 2017

By: Jen White

End Homelessness St. John’s has released its first count of the homeless population with findings that it calls “sobering.” “It is alarming that nearly three out of five respondents first became homeless before age 24 years, and two out of five respondents experienced six or more months of homelessness over the past year,” the report reads. “The high representation of Indigenous people, of those who identify as part of the LGBT2Q community, and of those who had involvement with Child Protection Services are of great concern,” the report reads. Everyone Counts: St. John’s Homeless Point-in-Time Count 2016 is a snapshot of those who experienced homelessness on a single day — in addition to focused outreach that happened during that week, in order to gather information about that population.

First count On Nov. 30, 2016, more than 100 volunteers and front-line staff conducted the first biennial count. They found that:

  • At least 166 people experienced homelessness in St. John’s, including 38 youth between the ages 16-24.
  • 84 of those people were staying in emergency shelters, or were unsheltered.
  • 82 were provisionally accommodated, meaning they were in transitional housing, stayed with someone else, or were in an institutional setting.


Bruce Pearce with End Homelessness said this number is just the tip of the iceberg. The group estimates about 800 people experience homelessness in the course of a year. “In a city of our size, that’s a very significant issue,” he said.  “On one night, 166 people being homeless is a tragedy and something that we need to turn around. If you had 166 car accidents on a single night, that would be headline news.” The survey found that most respondents first became homeless around the age of 19. However, the majority of those who first became homeless at the age of 45 or older said it was due to job loss.

Who is homeless? About half of those involved in the count also participated in a survey. According to the report, they ranged in age from 16 to 76 years old, and came from “all walks of life.” The survey found that almost 40 per cent of respondents had moved to St. John’s within the past five years: half had come from other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, while the rest were from other parts of Canada. Almost all of the respondents said they would like permanent housing, but most said they faced barriers, like low or no income, rent being too high, or issues with mental health or addictions. The report states that most homeless people in the city say they need support services — including social workers, housing officers, lawyers, and trauma specialists —  to address the challenges they face.

Child Protection Services

According to the report, 47 per cent of respondents said they had received Child Protection Services while either remaining in the family home, living with another family, or while in foster care or a group home. That number jumps to 70 per cent, when only those between the ages of 16 to 24 are considered. Krista Gladney, the project coordinator for the survey, said those statistics may shock the general public. “Fifty per cent of respondents who had been in foster care or a group home became homeless less than a year after leaving,” she said. “So that definitely shows there are some issues that need to be addressed.” More than 60 per cent of those surveyed said they did not feel as though Child Protection Services was helpful in their transition to independence.

Plan to end homelessness

End Homelessness St. John’s, a community-led board that brings together different sectors, said it hopes to follow in the footsteps of Medicine Hat, Alta, where officials maintain they have eliminated chronic homelessness. “That’s our goal for St. John’s in 2019, to be the first Atlantic Canadian community to reach that goal,” said Pearce. “We still have a long way to go to prevent homelessness and rehouse people who would be more transitionally homeless or at risk of homelessness.” According to the report, the plan is to “reduce average shelter stays to seven days or less by 2019, with the ultimate goal of ensuring no one in our city will live on the streets or in emergency shelter for longer than seven days before having access to the supports they need.” The group will also rehouse and support more than 500 homeless people and develop a coordinated homeless-serving system. End Homelessness St. John’s will do its next count in 2018, and share its findings as part of a national survey on homelessness. It will also help the group measure its progress.–john.html

Canada’s renewed commitment to housing

The Star, May 4, 2017

By: Adam Vaughan and Jean-Yves Duclos

Canada’s back. It’s a refrain often heard as our government re-emerges on the world stage with a renewed spirit of co-operation toward our international partners. The same phrase should be used on the housing file. The federal government is back in housing, and we are here to stay. Last month, our government proposed the largest and longest commitment to housing ever seen in this country. We will deliver Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy. The financing proposed extends beyond a decade, with the total funds available far exceeding the $11.2 billion highlighted in Budget 2017. The needs are many. We must build more affordable housing, create a path to home ownership for those with low incomes, house the chronically homeless, and address the massive backlog of repairs in our affordable housing stock. Our government is aware that we can only do this by working with the provinces and territories, as well as municipal governments and indigenous partners. The plan is to have a pan-Canadian vision for housing in place by year’s end. The National Housing Strategy will create a long-term road map for governments and housing providers across the country. When we took office, there was about $2 billion in funding committed to housing annually by the previous government. That figure was set to drastically shrink as a large number of critical housing agreements were left to expire. The stage was set for the federal government to exit from the housing sector altogether. But in our first year in office, we moved quickly to build on base funding by investing an additional $2.3 billion over two years, immediately increasing spending against homelessness by 50 per cent and more than tripling our housing transfers to the provinces and territories. We established a strong foundation on which to build a National Housing Strategy. And that’s where Budget 2017 comes in. Budget 2017 commits another $11.2 billion in federal funding over a 10-year-period, starting in 2018. Budget 2017 also enables more than $10 billion in low interest loans and mortgage guarantees to spur rental housing construction and repair. And Budget 2017 made that all-important promise to protect billions of dollars of investment previously set to expire. These amounts don’t include additional housing dollars to be spent through the government’s new indigenous infrastructure initiative. Nor do these numbers include investments we are making in other areas, such as mental health, which go hand-in-hand with a housing-first approach. Some have expressed the concern that our housing investments are back-end loaded. These assertions misunderstand the facts. Annual allocations by the federal government are, in fact, just about equal year-to-year as new money is added to old, and as expiring agreements are reinvested. At the centre of our long-term plan is a focus on the most vulnerable, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We have committed an average of $200 million per year over the next decade to tackle homelessness. With these major investments, we are aiming to cut chronic homelessness in half, and take 500,000 families out of housing need. We will make social and economic opportunity real for these Canadians. We are also getting a head-start on that work by immediately funding research like that recently announced in Toronto in partnership with A Way Home. That particular project, centred on youth, signals our focus on prevention and our recognition that many shelter users have significant mental health, addiction, and brain injury challenges. For Canadians searching for safe and affordable housing, for tenants waiting for badly needed repair to existing housing stock, for young people hoping to buy a home and start a family, for seniors looking to retire with dignity, Canada is back in housing. Our government is delivering a National Housing Strategy.

Government of Alberta joins organizations to end youth homelessness in Calgary

Global News, May 5, 2017

By: Aaron Tell

With Calgary retaining the highest unemployment rate in Canada this year, the Government of Alberta and several organizations came together Friday to re-launch the 2011 Calgary Plan to

Prevent and End Youth Homelessness. The Government of Alberta, The Calgary Foundation, Calgary Homeless Foundation and the United Way Calgary and Area, Family and Community Support Services are part of the initiative to refresh the plan based on evidence and evaluation. It’s launched under the I Heart Home Campaign. The four priorities in the plan are prevention, leadership and engagement, systems and housing. Calgary-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir said that there is a push to have these priorities taken care of and for the province to provide assistance. “By March 6, 2018 they will have some sort of collaborative partnership in place. But from the province’s standpoint, we are a willing partner and willing to collaborate and work with our community partners to make sure that youth have the support they need,” Sabir said. According to the most recent count conducted by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, youth homelessness jumped from eight per cent to 12 per cent of all people counted as homeless in Calgary from 2014 to 2016. Officials said this plan provides a good framework for a collaborative effort to end youth homelessness. Ange Neil, a former homeless youth, is excited about the initiative and believes that there is a real need for community engagement. “I think that collaboration and working together is the best way. We need multiple voices and multiple perspectives to get the full picture……being a youth and a leader in my community….. [it’s] empowering for me and the youth that come after me,” Neil said. Neil is hopeful and excited for the inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning and 2-spirited (LGBTQ2S) and Indigenous communities, which will be prioritized and focused on in this initiative. Neil hopes that this reduces some of the marginalization that members of these communities face daily.

Calgary Scouts plant greenery, help homeless for Good Turn Week

Calgary Sun, May 6, 2017

By: Anna Brooks

Planting trees, tuning up bikes and helping the homeless were just a few acts of volunteerism taken on by Calgary Scouts during this year’s Good Turn Week. Cub Scout leader Derek Mawbey was one of 150 Scouts and another 60 volunteers who spent Saturday planting moss, grass, flowers and trees all native to Alberta at the Fish Creek Mountain Bike Skills Park, which officially opened the same day. With Good Turn Week coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Cub Scouts in Canada, Mawbey said the youngsters wanted to take on a two-fold project that would benefit both the community and the environment. “The point of planting in the park was to reintroduce all the native vegetation beneficial to the ecosystem and that area of park,” he said. “Fish Creek is a place we frequent often with our youth, so the kids felt strongly about giving back to the park.” A reclaimed site converted into a mountain bike skills park, Mawbey said around 400 trees, grasses and flowers were planted to repopulate the barren, dirt-packed area. With all the seeds and shrubs neatly buried along the boundary line of the skills park, Mawbey said the flourishing vegetation will also act as a barrier between the road and the park. Another group of Scouts gave up their day in the sun to lend a hand at The Mustard Seed sorting centre to organize donations, fold clothes and learn about the needs of homeless and impoverished Calgarians. Scout leader Jennifer Riley was thrilled when the kids picked The Mustard Seed of their own volition, and said the day provided a great opportunity to teach Scouts about empathy, gratitude and the importance of helping others. “I think it teaches them how fortunate we are,” she said. “They were a little surprised at some of the donations like feminine hygiene products and chewing gum. Some kids said, ‘What, they don’t have gum!’ “They’re learning that sometimes there’s not enough money to pay for both rent and food.” Scouts Canada launched more than 30 projects across the country for the eighth annual Good Turn Week, which runs from April 29 to May 7.

Poverty reduction strategy seeks city support

Medicine Hat News, May 9, 2017

By: Collin Gallant

The goal of co-ordinating poverty reduction in Medicine Hat is back on the table and could see more movement soon, a city committee heard. Authors of the “Thrive” report appeared before the public services committee on Monday to ask for general support and discuss the next steps in the plan to align the goals and financing of local charities and social assistance agencies. “This is a starting point, a baseline for going forward,” said Community Housing Society manager Jaime Rogers, who was involved in the writing of the report. She asked that the committee “support the initiative, and that doesn’t mean getting out the cheque book.” The original report was the result of funding given by the Community Housing Society, an Alberta Family and Community Support Service grant (administered by the city), as well as the Medicine Hat Food Bank. The long title of the report is Medicine Hat and Region Strategy to End Poverty and Increase Well-being, and it suggests getting agencies, churches and other welfare service providers to co-ordinate would make better use of money given by government and the private sector. Creating a body to provide that co-ordination, track goals and outcomes, would lead to a raft of benefits over a 10 year-period in poverty reduction and community resiliency. “There are grants that seem to go down the rabbit hole, but there is no increased capacity in the community,” said Coun. Les Pearson, the committee’s vice-chair. “They do good work, but co-ordination would be nice.” Rogers was invited to give a presentation on the plan before full meeting of council at a later date. The recent report expands on work done in 2013, after which time the city’s work to provide housing opportunities as a means to reducing homelessness has garnered national acclaim. Committee member, Coun. Celina Symmonds, who is also a manager of the food bank, said she is a “huge supporter” of the new report. “When you look back at the (original) plan we’ve seen the he success of the Housing First strategy,” said Symmonds. This is very exciting.” An update, launched in February, seemed to gather support from agencies and donors who were invited to presentations. The first-year budget, estimated to cost $384,000, would be paid for out of existing grant awards as well as new requests to provincial and federal programs, as well as some local and regional agencies. Hiring an executive director to help co-ordinate agency activities is the first step. As well, the endeavour would also bring together a “council of champions” to both advocate for the goals as well as maintain support from a variety of groups. Rogers announced the first two members as Medicine Hat College president Denise Hennings and Chris Hellman, a past president of the local Chamber of Commerce who is involved in a variety of philanthropic causes. Other candidates are currently being “vetted,” said Rogers. Pearson said that across the country there is an increasing trend of tackling poverty by having “people who have money and influence coming together and giving them a stake in ending poverty.”

Escape room game helps Indigenous youth evade life on the streets

CBC News, May 9, 2017

A Calgary agency is using the escape room craze to connect with Indigenous youth in an attempt to help them get off the streets or avoid homelessness. The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) is setting up three different interconnected escape rooms on the main floor of the downtown library as part of a free program called Unlocking Homelessness. For anyone not familiar with the escape room trend, it works like this: Teams are locked inside a room and given a series of interactive or brain-teasing puzzles to solve in order to make their escape. LeeAnne Ireland, executive director of USAY, designed the rooms, including the themes and all of the props. She told the Calgary Eyeopener each escape room was created to teach young people about events and behaviours that can lead to homelessness and then show them services available in Calgary that can help prevent a life on the streets.

Following the steps

Each room has a different theme. The party room is filled with props related to drug and alcohol addictions; the alley room, accessed by climbing through a cabinet, deals with death and grief; the nice house symbolizes success and explains how to maintain a happy life. “We’ve built in all these metaphors — follow the light, follow the positivity…. We have this whole theme about layers, so it’s all about unlocking different layers in your life and overcoming one step, then the next step, and the next step,” said Ireland. When participants make it through, the hope is they’ll come away with solid knowledge and communications skills about seeking help if they get into trouble. “The whole idea is to get them to ask for help, learn about a service available to them and reach out and get that awareness,” said Ireland.

Reaching out

The agency is using social media to reach out to young people about the program, while the CBE is bringing in students on field trips. Though Indigenous youth are the focus of the project, Ireland says the program is universal and anyone will benefit from it. “Obviously, the resources can be accessed by non-aboriginals … but we’re definitely targeting indigenous youth … they’re very vulnerable in terms of experiencing homelessness,” she said.

Less poverty, not more medicine, will heal Canada’s health woes: O’Brien Institute guest André Picard

Globe and Mail health reporter reflects on three decades of covering Canadian health care

UCalgary Today, May 9, 2017

By: Brittany DeAngelis, for the O’Brien Institute of Public Health

In more than 30 years at the the Globe and Mail, health journalist André Picard has covered the most important health issues of our time — beginning with the AIDS crisis when he was a summer intern in the late 1980s. In 1987, countless people — most of them gay men — were dying of AIDS, and Picard was one of the first in the news media to pay attention to the issue. In his new book, Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada, Picard describes meeting a man admitted to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. The patient was being treated for a bacterial infection, but because he was openly gay, hospital staff hung a sign above his bed warning of the risk of blood and bodily fluid contamination. When Picard reached out to shake his hand upon meeting him, the patient burst into tears. After the story ran, St. Michael’s made a public apology, and changed their discriminatory policy.

‘More important to care for people’

AIDS profoundly changed how we view health and treat illness, and it forever changed health journalism, says Picard. “AIDS activists taught me — and society more generally — that the choices we make about health and medicine are inherently political, and that it is more important to care for people than it is to treat their symptoms.” This is the kind of insight Picard will share during a Calgary stop hosted by the Cumming School of Medicine’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health as part of the launch tour for Matters of Life and Death. The public event, which is being held in partnership with the Calgary Public Library and the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, is open to the public, free to attend and will be held in the Dutton Theatre at the Central Library on May 17. Tackling the health issues he discusses in his book, as well as what ails the Canadian health-care system in general, Picard will engage with high-level discussants, such as the O’Brien Institute’s scientific director Dr. William Ghali, P.G. Forest, director of  UCalgary’s School of Public Policy, Dr. Lynn McIntyre, former head of the Canadian Public Health Association, and Dr. Hakique Virani, an Edmonton physician at the vanguard of the opioid crisis in Alberta.

Translating the health-care experience

Matters of Life and Death is a selection of Picard’s columns spanning a career that’s seen him delve into such diverse topics as drug policy, end-of-life care, and the health of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Picard says he views himself as a translator — taking medical and health research, and translating it into digestible morsels for a lay audience. It’s a vital role, adds Virani. “André skillfully removes jargon and debunks prevalent pseudoscience. He makes knowledge relevant to people,” says Virani, a clinical professor with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The quality commentary Picard provides on the issues of the day is also key for bringing public health issues into the mainstream, adds Ghali. “André Picard is a highly acclaimed, influential voice for public health at the national level,” says Ghali, a professor in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. “His decades of balanced, insightful reporting on complex public policy issues has established him as a respected leader in the field of health journalism.”

Inequality, income and the health of society

Breakthroughs in medical research or technology tend to dominate headlines, but Picard writes that often-overlooked factors such as education, income, employment, housing and the environment influence health as much, if not more than medical treatments.

“The evidence is clear — and has been for a long time — that the greatest impact on our health comes not from genetics or medicine, but from our socio-economic circumstances,” says Picard. In one Globe article, Money: The Most Powerful Drug, Picard writes how socio-economic determinants have a profound influence on health, with income being at the top in terms of importance. “The most powerful drug we have is money,” Picard says. “If you have a decent income, it opens the door to living a good life; conversely, poverty is a debilitating condition that robs you of quality of life, and shaves years off your life expectancy.” If we want a healthy society, Picard writes we must look beyond just a health-care system that delivers state-of-the-art sickness care. An environment and culture that support healthy living is also crucial. Virani agrees. “If I could prescribe housing like I can medications, treating substance use disorders would be a lot easier,” says Virani. “And if I could prescribe equity, I’d put myself out of work almost completely. “In this way, (Picard’s) work may well save more lives than what I do as a clinician.”

Study: Lack of apartment rentals leads to decline of affordable housing in Calgary

660 News, May 11, 2017

By: Kendra Fowler

New numbers show a steady downward trend when it comes to affordable housing in Calgary. The School of Public Policy released a new report Thursday, showing a 96 per cent hike in population and a 24 per cent decrease in apartment rentals since 1990. The study ranks Calgary the worst compared to other major cities in Canada like Toronto, which showed a 57 per cent increase in population and a five per cent increase in apartment rentals. Professor of Economics at the School of Public Policy, Ron Kneebone, said this downward trend has a big impact. “When you restrict a rental market like this, it drives up costs,” he said. “Renting has become very expensive and in previous reports, we have shown that Calgary is the most expensive city for someone with low income to live.” Kneebone explained a lack of affordable housing leads to things like homelessness and more people needing support from social agencies. “A large family might be crammed into a one-bedroom apartment because that’s all they can afford,” he said. “All sorts of social ills come from this. It sometimes prompts domestic violence calls, unfortunately, because of the stress that comes from having poor housing.” Kneebone said municipalities need to lower construction costs for developers and make sure the city can own enough land to build more apartment rentals. “At the provincial level, I think, we need to look at the amount of income support we provide people on the low-income level,” he said. “If we could raise that, for example, people would be able to afford the rental units that are actually available because right now a lot of them cannot.” He added although there has been some talk about the federal government stepping back into housing, they need to think about which cities need it the most because most of the time the money is spread out evenly across the country. The numbers are based on apartment rental units available per a thousand people in Canada’s four largest cities.