52 Weeks, 52 Books – Week 1, Book 1

One of the personal challenges I’ve set for myself is to read/listen to an average of at least one book per week for the entire year. I used to be a voracious reader, sometimes ripping through five or more books in a week. Life, work changes, and family have all made my quantity of reading drop off over the past few years (though I would say that the quality has actually increased as I was more selective about which books I read in my limited time.

One of the things that have always believed strongly in is the concept of continual education. I will not stop learning in as many ways as I can until the day I die. If I haven’t learned something new during my day, then I haven’t fully accomplished my tasks for the day. As a result, I’m trying to read widely, especially in some areas that I haven’t necessarily read much in before. I will share links to all of my books, and I may receive compensation if you click on them. This is one of the ways in which I can keep funding the work that I do, and to be able to provide free content like this!

Which brings me to book one of this odyssey:

Excuse the bland background, I finished it in my office at my current job!

Beyond Shelters: Solutions to Homelessness in Canada from the Front Lines is a fascinating look at the ways in which the Shelter system in Canada has failed the people that use it and some of the ways in which it is changing. Now, before you start wondering “What on earth do shelters have to do with emergency management?” let me share a little bit of my ethos.

I am a strong believer in the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), of which housing is one. These are a group of ideas, concepts, or items that have been determined to lead to better health outcomes. What really inspires me though, is that there is a strong connection between these SDOH, and a person’s resiliency towards disasters. More resilient people make up more resilient communities. More resilient communities make more resilient jurisdictions, and so on. I’ll get into this in a later post. Suffice it to say that having someplace to call “home” is important to all aspects of life.

I’ve only ever seen the shelter system from the outside, as an observer. I’ve never spent time in them either as a client or as a volunteer or employee. I’m not in a great position to be able to speak about the system, but having read this book, I can see how the future direction(s) of the shelter system will lead to much better outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. Most of the authors advocate strongly for a program called Housing First that puts housing at the top of the list of things to do for people experiencing homelessness.

More important than addictions and mental health, more important than a job, even more important than a stable food supply, having housing first leads people to successful transitions out of homelessness. Having a home is so truly important that all of those other things come much more easily when you give someone a roof over their head for which they are accountable.

I’ve seen this work in my earlier career as an EMS dispatcher. We had what we called a “regular”, someone who we would hear from on a daily basis. Sometimes we would transport them two or three times a day. One day we realized that it had been weeks, or even months since we had transported them. We found out later that they had been granted an apartment through the local Housing First program, and that they were doing quite well on their own.

What’s my point here? By granting them housing and taking them out of the experience of homelessness, we went from this person receiving service from EMS (and usually the police, and often the emergency department) two or three times a day, to two or three times a year. This one action, of giving an apartment to a person experiencing homelessness meant that we freed up all sorts of resources. This meant that those resources could be used towards other things that were needed at the time. This one act made an entire system more resilient by freeing up those resources.

Resiliency starts with one step, and it moves one step at a time. They don’t have to be big steps, and they don’t have to be the same steps everywhere. But just taking that first step is a huge accomplishment in itself.

This whole book review kinda got off track…but trust me; buy the book!


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