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The Urban Health Crisis
Howard had no home for 14 years. No chair to call his own, no hot shower, no pillows that fit him just so. Instead, he lived in shelters – riding a long roller coaster of depression and anxiety. It all began when he became addicted to drugs. He lost his job, his home and his marriage. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, had surgery and recuperated in a shelter bed.
With help from St. Michael’s Hospital, Howard found a home and turned his life around. He is now healthy, sober and reunited with his family. But, the vast majority of chronically homeless men aren’t so lucky.
The alarming condition of homelessness in Toronto has made international headlines. Some are defining it as a crisis. Others are calling it a state of emergency. About 100 people experiencing homelessness died in 2017, four so far in January of this year. Toronto’s shelter system is at 94 per cent capacity and nearly 100,000 people are on the waitlist for social housing. And, of course, this is not Toronto’s problem alone. In Canada, 250,000 people are homeless at some point every year. One in five of these people is young – between the ages of 16 and 24.
Sadly, it often takes the frigid temperatures for anyone to notice.
Not St. Mike’s.
At MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, our scientists are working year-round to tackle urban health issues like homelessness, addiction, access to quality medicines, addressing the health effects of poverty on children and advancing Indigenous health. We believe the health of a city can be measured by the health of all of its residents. It makes sense. Health is inextricably linked to necessities like a safe and stable place to live, healthy food, and appropriate and responsive health care. It is noteworthy that people who are homeless are 10 times more likely to use an emergency department and five times more likely to be admitted to hospital.
A hub of over 25 renowned scientists and 120 staff, MAP is redirecting the future of health care to better address these health inequities. MAP is working on the ground with community and government partners to design and test solutions to find out what works and why. It then plans to help other cities in Canada apply these findings successfully.
To support MAP’s bold mission, St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation has launched a $25-million fundraising campaign. The core of the campaign is focused on five pressing urban health issues, which are each illustrated in the new exhibit, Redirecting the Future: The Intersection of Health and Poverty. At a kick-off event on Feb. 7, over 120 guests explored thought-provoking installations that enabled them to experience these urban health issues first hand. Led by the work of MAP, this exhibit will remain open to the public until Feb. 15 at the Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place.
MAP is internationally recognized for its science and innovation — allowing the legacy of St. Michael’s as a leader in care for people who are most marginalized to continue. Help our world-class researchers address the health effects of poverty and build the world’s healthiest city.
To learn more about the exhibit or to donate, visit redirectthefuture.ca