Thursday, December 26, 2019

Homelessness in North America: 'We're everywhere now'


Homeless Christmas in USA

This morning's CBC has a lead story on homelessness in Canada. Several "typical" individuals who are homeless and have been for some years were interviewed for the story.  According to these interviews, the main reasons for modern homelessness is "divorce, loss of a job and/or a workplace injury".  Interestingly, all of those interviewed for the story are men.  By far most homeless in society are men.  Why is that?

In my eighteen years working in social services I came across many who were homeless.  My findings were different than those in the story above.  By far the leading cause of homelessness is drug/alcohol addiction.  The second cause is mental illness or a combination of mental illness and drug addiction.  This combination makes up for at least 90% of the chronically homeless.

Another cause of homelessness closely associated with the above two that is rarely mentioned in newz reports is poor upbringing.  Some children are dragged up rather than brought up.  The parents are "drive by" parents.  Their homes are a disaster, hoarding and filth everywhere.  The parents are up all night partying--the kids can't sleep and do poorly at school.  Their most basic needs are inconsistently met. They end up unemployable--due to lack of skills, inability to focus and, yes, PTSD arising out of their traumatic childhood.  This cause [poor upbringing] is generational and it's very hard to break the cycle.

Large numbers of homeless on the streets and in shelters is a devastating comment on our society.  Yet many do not connect the dots between a sick society and epidemic numbers of homeless.  What about our society is sick?  First, the lack of resources put into children and youth.  In a society like ours with so much wealth hoarded [yes, hoarded] at the top echelons, there should be universal dental care.  

Universal Dental Care is one of the Keys to solving the Homeless Crisis

In the CBC story linked to this post, one of the homeless men blames his situation on poor teeth.  He says he can't get a job in the hotel business anymore because his teeth are missing/decayed.  Now, why would a society rather pay welfare/disability pensions in perpetuity than simply fix the man's teeth?!

I discovered from my job that having no dental care for years on end is one of the most common [and preventable] causes of unemployment.  It goes hand in hand.  Poor and/or unsightly teeth not only severely limit employability but eventually contribute to very poor health overall in middle and old age.  Many problems with teeth are connected with drug addiction.  Some drugs, like meth, actually exacerbate tooth decay.  But if there was universal dental care this gap in health care could be somewhat ameliorated.

One of my first focuses when I was made guardian of a child-in-care was getting them to a dentist.  Being brought into care meant that they finally got their dental bills paid for by the government.  It was a silver lining to the trauma of separation from family.

Still, it was a real chore convincing a dentist to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops/paperwork to get paid to provide dental services to a CIC [Child in Care].  I would be on the phone with a dentist, cajoling and begging him/her to take my client.  It should not have been so hard.

I don't know why dental care is not part of universal health care, especially for children.  This is a real failure of our society and one of the most easy to remedy.  In some ways, lack of universal dental care in a society is the same as a homeless person with a mouth full of rotten teeth.  Or, putting it in the reverse...a person with rotten teeth and all the problems in life that rotten teeth cause is a metaphor for a society with no universal dental care.  Rotten on the inside.  It seems superficial and a luxury...but in fact Dental Care is an essential component of good health!

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