Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Falling through the cracks

An article in our local paper caught my eye this morning. It was about a 72 year old woman who was evicted two years ago from her low income government housing unit because she had been hoarding. Living in a shelter, minus most of her possessions and not telling her family or friends, she is spending her 'senior years' without privacy and dignity.

It got me thinking - how is it possible that someone falls through the cracks so significantly and no one notices but a newspaper reporter? Why is it 'acceptable' that in order to 'fix' a problem - presumably this person's hoarding - our 'progressive' and 'inclusive' society and its public servants, find it acceptable to send this woman to the streets without supports, without notifying anyone who could help or anyone who cares about her?

While there are at least two sides to every story and realistically we only know one of them, it is clear that this person's issues were noticed and she had been brought before the Landlord Tenant Board before her eviction. Could more not have been done to help her before forcing her out of her home? What about society's collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable? Do we all not deserve to be treated with some dignity and respect? While one has to wonder how for two years she could keep this secret from those who know her, how they don't ask questions or notice anything isn't quite right, one can completely understand this woman's sense of embarrassment and pride as a reason for not asking for help. She is caught between a rock and a hard place - she cannot find a new home because of her financial limitations and because she is concerned if the label of 'hoarder' is attached to her, no one will want her living in their property. And she is too afraid of the consequences of reaching out to medical professionals for help.

How many people like her are falling through the cracks? And how many more will fall, as our ageing population increases in number and more and more people require supportive housing? For some time now I have worried about the 'black hole' tomorrows seniors on basic pensions will face when they start needing care that our system cannot afford to cover. This is one more facet of that concern. Even if she doesn't need physical care, she does need help. Someone knowing that dropped the ball. The question is, who is there to pick it up again?

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