Transcript: Ontario's Hidden Homelessness | May 14, 2020

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a gray suit and a checkered blue shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario's hidden homelessness. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO."

Jeyan says "STAY HOME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE," IS THE MAIN ASK DURING THIS PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS. THAT'S EASIER SAID THAN DONE FOR SOME AND HAS REVEALED A WIDER SWATH OF PEOPLE THAN EXPECTED WHO ARE EXPERIENCING HOUSING INSECURITY. MARY BAXTER HAS THAT STORY FROM OUR ONTARIO HUB IN LONDON. SHE JOINS US NOW.

Mary is in her forties, with shoulder-length straight brown hair. She's wearing a black shirt.

Jeyan continues WELCOME, MARY.

Mary says HI, JEYAN.

Jeyan says YOU'VE WRITTEN EXISTENCETIVELY ON TVO.org WILL HIDDEN HOMELESSNESS. CAN YOU CHARACTERIZE WHAT HIDDEN HOMELESSNESS LOOKS LIKE?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter. Southwestern Ontario Hub Journalist."

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Coronavirus. What Ontario is getting right (and wrong) about homelessness during COVID-19. By Mary Baxter."

Mary says YOU USED THE TERM HIDDEN HOMELESSNESS, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE MIGHT THINK OF THINGS LIKE COUCH SURFING, YOU KNOW, STAYING WITH FAMILY OR FRIENDS. BUT IT'S ACTUALLY A MUCH BROADER CATEGORY, IF YOU WANT TO CALL IT THAT. THERE WAS A STUDY DONE IN 2017 IN RURAL AND NORTHERN ONTARIO THAT REVEALED THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING IN HIDDEN HOMELESSNESS MAY BE DOING THINGS LIKE SQUATTING OR THEY MIGHT BE EVEN CLIMBING INTO CRAWLSPACES UNDER SOMEONE'S HOME AT NIGHT, THAT SORT OF THING. IT'S ALSO ABOUT HIDING HOMELESSNESS FROM AUTHORITY, IN A WAY. SO A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE... THEY MAY NOT APPLY FOR SOCIAL ASSISTANCE, FOR INSTANCE, BECAUSE OF THE STIGMA THAT THEY SEE ATTACHED TO IT OR THEY MIGHT LACK DOCUMENTATION, THAT SORT OF THING.

Jeyan says NOW, SOME CIRCUMSTANCES... THERE ARE SO MANY CIRCUMSTANCES AS TO WHY PEOPLE MAY BECOME HOMELESS. BUT CAN YOU EXPLAIN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES WE USUALLY DON'T FACTOR IN WHEN THINKING ABOUT THE REASONS WHY PEOPLE BECOME HOMELESS?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter, @MaryBWord."

Mary says YEAH, SURE. I SPOKE TO PROFESSOR STEVEN GETZ, WHO IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE CANADIAN OBSERVATORY ON HOMELESSNESS, AND HE'S AT YORK UNIVERSITY, AND HE POINTED OUT THAT A LOT OF HOMELESSNESS ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN RELATION TO INSTITUTIONAL POLICIES. FOR INSTANCE, WITH HOSPITALS, THERE'S AN UNDERSTANDING THAT PEOPLE DO BETTER RECOVERING AT HOME, SO A LOT OF THE HOSPITAL POLICIES ARE BUILT AROUND, YOU KNOW, RELEASING PEOPLE TO THEIR HOMES TO RECOVER. BUT IF YOU DON'T HAVE A HOME, WHERE DO YOU GO? YOU KNOW, PEOPLE MIGHT BE RELEASED INTO A SHELTER, FOR INSTANCE. WITH PRISONS, THE SAME SORT OF THING. A LOT OF PEOPLE GET RELEASED BACK INTO HOMELESSNESS. THEY HAVE NO PLACE TO GO. AND WHAT PROFESSOR GETZ SAID WAS THAT THE RECIDIVISM RATE IS HIGHER FOR THOSE PEOPLE IF THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A PLACE TO GO TO. THE OTHER IS TO DO WITH OUR CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM WHEN YOUNG PEOPLE AGE OUT OF WELFARE, AS WE KNOW IN THIS DAY AND AGE, IT'S HARD ENOUGH, EVEN IF YOU HAVE A JOB, TO FIND A PLACE TO LIVE. IMAGINE IF, ALL OF A SUDDEN, THAT INCOME THAT YOU'VE BEEN RELYING ON TO SUPPORT YOU DURING YOUR FORMATIVE YEARS, ALL OF A SUDDEN IS GONE.

Jeyan says I WANT TO LOOK AT MAYBE A RESPONSE, OBVIOUSLY YOU SPOKE TO SOME EXPERTS. HOW IS ONTARIO DOING AT FINDING SERVICES FOR PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS.

Mary says ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES WITH ABSOLUTE HOMELESS POPULATIONS IS THAT WHEN YOU LIVE ON THE STREET, YOU AGE A LOT FASTER. SO IF YOU'RE 50, YOU WOULD ACTUALLY BE CLOSER IN PHYSICAL AGE TO 65, HAVE A LOT OF PHYSICAL AILMENTS INVOLVED AS WELL, BECAUSE THAT'S REALLY TOUGH LIVING. IN SHELTERS, IT'S CONGREGATE LIVING. WE'VE SEEN HOW THE VIRUS, COVID-19, HAS JUST RIPPED THROUGH LONG-TERM CARE. IT'S THE SAME KIND OF RISK IN SHELTERS. BUT THE GOOD PART IS THAT THAT'S WIDELY RECOGNIZED ACROSS THE PROVINCE BY MUNICIPALITIES. THEY'VE BEEN DOING A REALLY GOOD JOB IN MOVING PEOPLE INTO SPACES LIKE HOTELS, SO THAT THEY'RE ABLE TO GAIN SOME PHYSICAL DISTANCING AND ALSO TO INCREASE PHYSICAL DISTANCING IN THE SHELTERS.

Jeyan says I'M CURIOUS, WITH THE EXPERTS YOU SPOKE TO, HAVE THEY SAID ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT THE HOMELESS POPULATION WILL LOOK LIKE WHEN WE'RE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS PANDEMIC?

Mary says THERE'S A LOT OF CONCERN OUT THERE ABOUT HOMELESS NUMBERS ACTUALLY INCREASING. SO PROFESSOR GETZ POINTED TO SOME WORK THAT HAD BEEN DONE IN THE UNITED STATES TO DO WITH WHAT HAPPENS AFTER EVICTION MORATORIUMS ARE LIFTED. IN NEW YORK STATE, FOR INSTANCE, EVERY YEAR THEY HAVE A SPACE IN TIME WHERE THEY DON'T EVICT PEOPLE. AND AFTER THAT POINT, EVICTIONS RISE QUITE DRAMATICALLY. AND THERE'S BEEN SOME MODELLING DONE ON THAT WHICH SHOWS THAT IN THE UNITED STATES, IF THERE'S NO INTERVENTION MADE, THEN YOU COULD SEE HOMELESS NUMBERS ON THE STREETS INCREASING BY ABOUT A THIRD AND A DOUBLING OF PEOPLE ASKING FOR ASSISTANCE. SO THAT'S WITHOUT ANY INTERVENTION. THE BIG THING IS THAT PLANNING IS NEEDED, AND IF THAT TAKES PLACE, THEN HOPEFULLY THAT SIZE OF PEOPLE BEING HOMELESS OR AT RISK OF HOMELESSNESS WILL BE PREVENTED, THAT THAT IS THE BIG CHALLENGE RIGHT NOW, BOTH IN THE UNITED STATES AND HERE IN CANADA, OF COURSE.

Jeyan says I WANT TO TALK ABOUT ONE OF YOUR ARTICLES. THERE WAS A QUOTE THAT STAYED WITH ME, AND I WANT TO READ IT. IT WAS: "NEVER WASTE A CRISIS." CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT APPROACH? WHAT DOES THAT EXACTLY MEAN?

Mary says THAT'S SUCH A GOOD LINE. IT CAME FROM A MUNICIPAL OFFICIAL IN CHATHAM-KENT, BECAUSE WHAT HAPPENED IN CHATHAM-KENT WAS WHEN THE COVID-19 SHUTDOWN HAPPENED, THEY SAW A SUDDEN INCREASE IN HOMELESSNESS NUMBERS, AND THEY REACTED QUITE QUICKLY TO CREATE AN EMERGENCY SHELTER FOR THEM, BUT THERE WAS STILL THIS LINGERING QUESTION OF, WHAT HAPPENED? WHERE ARE PEOPLE COMING FROM? SO THE SHELTER, IT'S NOT ONLY A CHANCE TO HELP THEM AND TO HELP THEM FIND HOMES AGAIN, BUT IT'S ALSO A CHANCE TO FIND OUT AND ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS OF WHAT HAPPENED SO THAT THEY CAN PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE AND, YOU KNOW, PREVENT THAT RISK OF HOMELESSNESS WHERE THEY CAN.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says MARY BAXTER, IT'S ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU ON THE SHOW BRINGING US VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS FROM SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO. THAT'S MARY BAXTER, OUR ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST COVERING SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO. THANKS AGAIN.

Mary says THANKS, JEYAN.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Ontario's Hidden Homelessness