Written by Nathanael Lewis
He was in a band for five years before he decided to live out of a suitcase. He claims to have seen almost every town across Canada; if you believe it possible – his face would convince you he did. A wanderer constantly moving from area to area doing what he wanted. Yes he came from a bad home life, but he didn’t hinge on that. The experiences he had in the world were much more important than than life he left behind. With two pairs of clothes, a YMCA card and no where to be, he made the most out of the life he was living.
Randi Scott was 47 years old when he retired officially, but it wasn’t until years later that the stroke would happen. Randi regretted nothing from his time being without a home because he chose that lifestyle.
“From the band, I got used to basically living out of a suitcase,” said Randi, regaling how he came to be without a home. “Traveling light became sort of a natural thing.”
Now 59, Randi is quite an interesting fellow. He suffered a stroke some years ago which hampered his short term memory, but enhanced his creativity. Now a photographer known throughout Brant for his work, he possesses a slight scruff that catches the light and a smile which is constantly on display. He speaks with a quiet, yet strong voice which has obviously seen years of use. You see Randi paid for his house in cash, which might seem strange until one understands why.
Randi explains that as he travelled from town to town, he would drill peep holes into apartment doors for those who wanted to see out. As he said to answer my confusion, It was a different time.
“I knock on the door and I say, ‘I’m here doing the apartment building, now – would you like to get one put in?’ Ten bucks, ten minutes and it’s good to go. And they say we’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, okay well I’m here. No service call charge.”
As he collected the money from his jobs here and there, he was able to put together enough for his first house around when he was 30. As someone had once told him – if you don’t have your life together by 30, you’re done. So shortly after 30, Randi had a house and was no longer without a home.
In early 2014, a report called The State of Homelessness in Canada was released as a collective work by the Canadian Observatory of Homelessness, the Homeless Hub and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
This report had some interesting findings, which included:
- Over 235,000 Canadians face homelessness throughout a single year
- 13,000 – 33,000 are chronically or episodically homeless
- 180,000 are reported staying in emergency shelters
- Nearly 1 in 5 households experience extreme house affordability problems
- Over the past 20 years, 100,000 affordable housing units have been foregone in favour of budget cuts.
In the summary of the support, authors came to the conclusion that the reason that Canada is experiencing such high levels of homelessness is due to the lack of support. Specifically, the report focusses on those who are without a home due to mental or physical challenges.
“For a small, but significant group of Canadians facing physical and mental health challenges, the lack of housing and supports is driving increases in homelessness. Prevention measures – such as ‘rent banks’ and ‘energy banks’ that are designed to help people maintain their housing –are not adequate in stemming the flow to homelessness. The result has been an explosion in homelessness as a visible and seemingly ever present problem.”
— Homeless Hub (@homelesshub) March 13, 2015
In response, the federal Canadian government put together the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). A community-based program, the HPS would look to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada by 2019.
“The Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013 announced nearly $600 million over five years (2014-2019) starting in April 2014 to renew and refocus the HPS using a Housing First approach.”
That $600 million would be provided through the three-tiers of government to promote a Housing First initiative. The initiative will focusing on reinstating housing stability for low income households and persons who currently find themselves temporarily or permanently without a home. The implementation for the program comes after a report released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC).
“Through this renewed commitment, funding available to communities will remain unchanged and communities will retain flexibility to invest in other proven approaches that complement Housing First,” as written in the statement released with the initiatives outline.
When looking at the current situation, a situation bound to get worse long before it gets better, one is charged to wonder if five years is quick enough to facilitate effective change.
According to Becca Vandekemp, the Community Developer for Why Not Youth Centre in Brantford, the problem is hard to access – especially when it comes to youth.
“The youth homelessness situation in Brantford is a bit complex. Youth are incredibly resourceful. It is extremely rare that they would ever spend a night on the street… At Why Not, we often talk about youth mobility, which means that homeless youth here are always moving. One night they’ll be at a friend’s place, and the next they’ll have started a relationship to have a place to crash. They might get into the one group home in town, but often get kicked out because they are too stressed to follow the rules.”
Homelessness is a problem in Brantford, just as well as anywhere else in Canada. But Randi takes a different perspective on it. “You can step back and figure out something you can do, so you have a choice about being homeless.”
And although this might not apply to everyone who is currently without a home in Brantford, it does nod towards something that could be a way for the homeless to make a living in the meantime.