I spoke with Walter on the street outside our drop in and listened as he shared his frustration with the current state of affairs with housing in Ottawa – specifically how he has been unable to secure a place to live off the streets. He is also pretty peeved about his inability to access meals in the downtown core, because of his past behavior.
He does not have any kind of track record of ability of keeping an apartment, and therefore does not have any references. And, when he tells prospective landlords that he is able to pay because he is a recipient of ODSP (Ontario Disability Service Plan), it serves as a final nail in his coffin. It appears that Landlords are not interested in housing people who are on disability, probably because they have experienced difficulties with others in the same situation.
But Walter is not the same person who was barred for three lifetimes from one of the service agencies downtown. (Yup, you read correctly, three lifetimes!!! What’s that? I don’t know.)
The stigma that is associated with Walter stems from his past involvement with alcohol, addictions and violence. But the thing is, Walter has not touched alcohol or drugs now for over a year! Nothing.
Still, he is refused housing because he is on ODSP and does not have a reference from any landlord because he has lived only on the streets; and he is refused services because of events that happened six years ago.
What kind of any chance do people like Walter have? How can the stigma be broken? Who will do some advocacy on Walter’s behalf? Some people ‘turn over a new leaf’ in order to get what they need and then turn the leaf right back over, but this is not the case with Walter. Is there any kind of ‘second chance’ today, when people can have a fresh start?
Walter’s determination to remain clean and sober, is an demonstration of courage and determination far above what I could imagine for anyone else in the same situation.
What motivation or reason is there for Walter to sustain the significant life changes that he has demonstrated? His journey over the past twelve months is inspiring!!
Long story short, Walter is going to drop by the office tomorrow. Maybe he’ll find someone who will believe his story and do a bit of advocacy on his part: make a few calls, give some affirmation of Walter’s character and sobriety. Then maybe someone will believe him.
If you would like to send some encouraging words to Walter through responding to this blog, I will make sure that he gets your note. Maybe, just maybe, he will be encouraged through your words and our actions. Cheers!
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