How supportive housing 'rescued' one homeless man
Published Monday, January 25, 2016 10:28PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 26, 2016 9:19AM EST
For seven years, Curtis lived on the streets of Toronto.
The former accountant from Newfoundland never dreamed he would be homeless, but a series of bad choices and bad luck left him penniless and without a place to call home.
The 53-year-old also struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I would spend weeks, if not months, not talking to people. I thought it was normal at the time," Curtis recently told CTV News.
He said he'd often find himself on the receiving end of insults from strangers.
"We hear it all the time, 'get up and get a job you lazy bum'," Curtis said, adding, "These are sick people who have mental health issues."
Thanks to a supportive housing program, Curtis is no longer living on the streets. But he gets angry when he spots sleeping bags and blankets on the ground of a downtown Toronto park.
"Here are people sleeping under a tree in the richest country in the world," Curtis said. "There's something wrong with that."
Curtis said had it not been for a probation officer and city workers who connected him with supportive housing agency Houselink Community Homes, he very well could still be living on the streets.
The program not only provided Curtis with a home, but with medical care and help securing a job. He said Houselink "rescued him."
"I'm alive, and I would not be without that," Curtis said.
According to the Toronto Mental Health and Addictions Supportive Housing Network, 15,500 residents need access to mental health and addictions supportive housing, but there are only 5,000 spaces available.
The organization says supportive housing costs between $25 and $31 per day, compared to:
- $61 per day for a bed in a shelter
- $143 per day for a bed in a prison
- $665 per day for a psychiatric inpatient bed
Brian Davis, executive director of Houselink, says the wait time for supportive housing is only expected to grow.
The Access Point receives about 500 calls a month inquiring about supportive housing in Toronto, and the Access Point's waitlist has grown from 900 in 2009 to more than 10,000 as of December 2015.
"We expect the waiting list to go up to possibly 13,000 or 14,000 by the end of this year," Davis said.
According to the Access Point, which is a centralized point where one can apply for mental health and addictions support services and supportive housing, wait times for supportive housing range from two to three months, to up to seven years.
Toronto Mental Health and Addictions Supportive Housing Network says it will cost $8 million to deal with Toronto's overcrowded shelters. The agency says that money will give homeless people a roof over their heads, but it does not provide the long-term stability that supportive housing does.
Curtis, meanwhile, acknowledges there will be a cost to end homelessness. But he believes it's a price Canadians are willing to pay.
"I don't believe that the people of this country want people to be sleeping under a tree in January in Canada," he said.
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip