Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Cam Dearlove writes a must-read column on the role of housing in building a healthy society:
For housing advocates and researchers, our nation’s inability to make headway on homelessness and housing instability is not only a moral failure, but also a financial one. Studies have consistently shown a positive return on investing in ending homelessness – one program in Waterloo Region, which combats persistent homelessness, has estimated returns of $9.45 in value for every dollar spent.

Housing for each of us is about so much more than shelter, as the quality and adequacy of housing is a key determinant of health. Crowded housing puts us at greater risk of spreading illness, while environmental issues such as mold can lead to chronic health issues. High housing costs take away from the money that could be spent on other quality of life determinants, such as healthy food, while the stress of unaffordable housing can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues.
The experience of homelessness is particularly damaging to children. Studies show the experience to be traumatic, with major emotional, psy- chological, and physiological impacts, often manifesting in behavioural challenges and poorer outcomes in school. Preventing children from this experience seemed an obvious priority, said Angela Pye, Social Planning Associate with the Region of Waterloo. “We looked at our limited resources and asked: “what could we do that would make a difference upstream?” The Region of Waterloo responded by working with community partners to redesign the local Families in Transition program to include a shelter diversion pilot, where workers intervene early to help families retain their housing or find new housing, all part of a plan to avoid ever reaching a shelter. Sometimes this work requires additional resources to support shelter diversion, such as covering rent or utility arrears.

“It makes sense to support that individual or family, because it’s the right thing to do and aligns with our values as a system – but it’s also cost-effective, as it’s much less expensive to end someone’s experience of homelessness, with costs often borne in other systems,” said Pye.
Today the poor house seems like such an outdated and archaic institution – with the will, and adequate, long-term investments from provincial and federal governments, homeless shelters could be viewed the same way tomorrow.
- Lana Payne discusses the IMF's recognition that unions are essential to combat inequality. Deirdre Fulton reports on the Congressional Progressive Caucus' work to develop trade agreements which benefit the public, not only their corporate sponsors. And Mark Barabak writes that we may soon see a Bernie Sanders candidacy for the U.S. presidency focused on empowering the public rather than the wealthy few.

- Meanwhile, Ros Wynne-Jones points out how a deliberate move toward precarious employment is making it difficult for people to survive in care-related professions.

- Finally, Alan Sears rightly questions the cult of the entrepreneur. But I'll note that the focus on the difference between large and small business may miss an even more important point: there's no reason why new ideas should have to be developed solely by individuals staking their livelihoods on long odds of success, rather than public investment in socially beneficial innovation.

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