Last Thursday evening, at 11:00 PM, I walked along East Hastings Street in Vancouver. It is not a pretty part of the city. I walked about 6 blocks and each block had about 50-100 people on it. And each 1 of them was homeless. Surprisingly, I never felt concerned for my safety during that 6-block walk. Despite the bad choices that these people had made to put them in their current situation, they were respectful of me and my choice to walk through their neighborhood. I also felt safe for the simple reason that I could probably run faster than most of them. The majority of the people I saw that night looked sick. Which is not surprising. It is estimated that 74% of homeless people have a serious health condition.
One charity based in Toronto also understands that many of the homeless are sick and some will never recover. And they want to make sure their last days are spent off the streets in a safe and caring environment. Journey Home Hospice is a partnership involving Saint Elizabeth Foundation, Inner City Health Associates and Hospice Toronto to “ensure people who are homeless have a safe, welcoming and caring place to spend their final weeks and days of life.”
Like many good charities designed to improve the health of others, this one will likely be cost effective. Their proposed 10-bed hospice model will serve about 100 homeless people a year and will likely save the Ontario health care system $1.5 million annually.
Homeless people, especially those with serious, chronic health conditions are a major cost to society. Years ago, author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about ‘Million Dollar Murray’ to illustrate that financial burden that the homeless can have on our society.
Right now, Journey Home Hospice, has a 4-bed pilot program set up at 1 location in Toronto with the plan to expand to its 10-bed program.
A video of their program is shown below.
We hope Journey Home Hospice succeeds and hope it expand to other cities in need of such programs.