Relationship Builder

Can we eliminate homelessness?

I know we say we can, but do we believe it?

In my work in the social service sector, I have encountered many people who have been homeless, either for a short time or a long time, and I believe for the most part that the majority of those folks want to be responsible, pro-social members of society.  And let’s face it; there are many barriers for these folks to accomplish this goal, both internal and systemic.

Personal barriers include mental health issues, addiction, learning disorders, cognitive impairment, poor physical health, family violence, social isolation and dare I say but there are some (albeit a small number) of people who prefer to be homeless.

Systemic barriers include poverty, lack of affordable housing stock, under employment, the “Not In My Back Yard” mentality (NIMBY), limited access to health and social services, and inadequate social policy that is counterproductive to goal of individual independence to name just a few.

Another systemic issue in my opinion is the question of who has control of one’s care.  I find it intriguing that as professionals, we assert the individual’s freedom to choose yet on the other hand we use the power of our position to impose “solutions” on those we serve.  Granted, the intention is good.  I believe we as professionals truly do have our clients best interest at heart.  Yet, that doesn’t excuse doing the opposite of what we hold to be most valued (more on this another time I suppose).

Without a doubt, I believe there is a complex interplay between all of these forces, internal and external, that have a direct bearing on homelessness.  And solutions in one only will not necessarily eliminate the issue on its own. For example, while poverty is a lead cause of homelessness, to eliminate poverty does not necessarily eliminate homelessness.  If the problem is multidimensional, then the solution must also be multidimensional.

For example, on a personal level, having enough resources to address mental health, addictions, violence, social isolation and other factors are important components to any solution.  According to a study conducted by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions at Simon Fraser University, it costs $37,000 per year to provide housing and supports to homeless individuals and costs the taxpayer $55,000 per year if they remain homeless.[1]  Consequently one solution is government’s adequate investment into the care and development of homeless individuals that addresses the individual barriers to remaining housed.

Systemically, an investment into the care of individuals will eliminate or at least minimize the burden on the health care system.  Cross ministry social policy is necessary to ensure efforts are collaborative and consistent.  For example, welfare benefits need to cover basic needs without contributing to the cycle of poverty and homelessness.  Food security initiatives, already in progress in many communities, should be enhanced and strengthened to address ongoing poverty.  Finally, municipalities and provincial governments need to designate land for “tent cities.”  This would allow regulators to ensure land is used for its intended purpose, provide health and other services when needed while respecting the rights of the individual to live independently.

Nimbyism also needs to be addressed through public education and other means.  I am stunned often at the public’s general ignorance and/or apathy about the issues related to homelessness.  Many people generally are concerned but believe “what can I do?” while others I have experienced are anywhere from indifferent to hostile regarding homeless persons.  “Pick yourself up” and “they’re just too lazy” or “I had to work.  There’s no such thing as a free ride” are just some of the comments I have heard from every day, Joe Q or Jane Q public.  Education as to the cycle of poverty and homelessness, the lack of available supports and other contributing factors will educate and perhaps even motivate the public to action.

Make no mistake, homelessness is everyone’s concern.  And I believe firmly that we can actually eliminate it.  It will take a coordinated effort and commitment from many stakeholders but I believe it’s possible during my lifetime.  So what are you waiting for?  Get involved somehow and let’s get to it…


[1] Patterson, M, Somers, J, McIntosh, K, Shiell, A, and Frankish, C (2008) Housing and Support for adults with severe addictions and/or mental illness in British Columbia Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction, Simon Fraser University, p11.


Relationship builder; Helping people by mobilizing partnerships between charity, government, business and communities.
I am an extroverted, energetic and responsive collaborator and team builder with expertise in not-for-profit governance, marketing, PR/communications, finance, fund development, human resources and program development with a focus on mental health and addictions. I have strong business and financial acumen, excellent communication and leadership skills, am committed to lifelong learning and am a dedicated and passionate social advocate and champion. I

I am a capable leader with the skills, resources, passion and ambition to facilitate positive change for not-for-profit organizations and foundations. I remain current of industry changes, stay well informed of regulatory requirements. I am able to analyze and assess complex issues quickly and accurately and can translate them to others in a way that is understandable and develop achievable actions that put the organization on the path to better function and success.

I have a high degree of emotional intelligence and use empathy, humour, caring and passion in all of my relationships which is underscored by integrity, honesty and a willingness to take calculated risks.

Accomplishments include:
• Improved board of director’s efficiency and effectiveness without additional time commitment.
• Improved quality of donor data and increased fundraising ROI.
• Decreased homelessness by 40%.
• Developed an organizational team environment.
• Strengthened stakeholder engagement.
• Improved target public awareness of programs and social issues.
• Improved business performance in finance, IT, HRM and marketing.
• Improved organizational accountability by developing strategic and operational plans.
• Secured a three year CARF accreditation (best available)
• Secured and launched two complex housing programs with BC Housing and FHA.
• Designed fundraising strategies and processes to increase revenue and exposure

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What others say about me

Tony has a broad range of social service and community development experience. He was instrumental in finalizing the operating model for the recently opened Homeless Shelter in Mission.
Tony has a vision of what is possible and is persistent in pursuing his vision. He has been in his current position for four years and has facilitated change in the structure and presentation of the organization. In my experience, including when he was Secretary to the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters, he is generous, responsive, reliable and caring.
Tony is uniquely qualified for his position. His business qualifications enable him to stay focused on the fiscal needs of the Society, while his background in Counselling make him an approachable and empathetic leader. He always responds promptly to my requests and takes time to build the relationships necessary in this line of work.
Tony operates in a professional manner in all matters and is particularly adept in the area of non-profits, governance, organizational structures, and financials. Tony's good nature and sense of humour makes working with him enjoyable while maintaining the much-needed focus on the work at hand.
Tony was a student of mine in the MBA program at TWU. Tony has a very solid business accumen, as well at very good leadership skills. Tony has the ability to work through complex issues, and come up with creative and innovative solutions to the challenges at hand.
Tony is an inspirational leader who does terrific work for the Community. He has the ability to influence people towards a common goal and translate vision into reality. I admire Tony for his genuine love of people and community.
Tony is a consumate professional and an excellent communicator.
Tony has a background in working with a vulnerable population. He is working to build a cohesive team to take the society to a new level.
I've worked with Tony since 2007. Tony was a Director on my Board and we are colleagues as Executive Directors in the not for profit sector. I think Tony is conscientious, caring and strategic. He has a great combination of expertise - counseling and administrative leadership.
Tony was a member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters Abbotsford Mission Ridge Meadows. Tony provided guidance and input to the Executive Director as part of his role on the board. The staff had the opportunity to work directly with Tony during a number of planning sessions. With his instruction and guidance we were able to evaluate our goals, strengths and weaknesses as an agency and as co-workers. This training assisted us in setting goals for our agency and for [...]
Tony is an engaged leader both as Executive Director at Mission Community Services and on the Board at Big Brothers Big Sisters Abbotsford Mission Ridge Meadows. He is consultative and collaborative. It is evident that he regards the opinions of others. Tony is an asset to organizations dedicated to social and community service delivery.
Tony was in one of my MBA classes and was a valuable contributor to the classroom environment. He was well liked by his peers and was able to significantly aid to the discussions. I would recommend Tony for work he felt comfortable contributing to. Tony would be an asset to any organization.
Tony took on bargaining duties on behalf of CSSEA's General Services Panel after an alternate became ill and had to step away. Tony has developed a rapport with the team and particpates fully when he is able to. He continues to be an active member of the General Services Panel at CSSEA.
I always enjoy every and any opportunity that I have to cross paths with Tony. He is so very down to earth, a great communicator and when it comes to accomplishing a task it is all about excellence.
I have worked with Tony for many years in our working relationship in the addictions field. I find him to be very competent and knowledgeable regarding addictions issues. Tony has a good manner in working with people and helping them to have a better understanding of themselves.
Tony was employed as a Clinical Team Manager at Kinghaven Treatment Centre for over 4 years. I always found Tony to be professional in his dealings with staff and clients; perceptive in his assessment of those he supervised and willing to share his areas of expertise with our many clients.
Tony works well under extreme pressure and has proven to be a dependable, detailed oriented and takes on making major decision that will benefit the company, especially when it comes to finanical decisions. I have enjoyed being on the board working with Tony and seeing his results.
Tony was serious-minded and hard working in all of his studies but not without a sense of humour. His strong work ethic and self discipline made it a pleasure to work with him on the varied team projects that made up much of Trinity's MBA program.
Tony is an excellent communicator and thought leader. He has a remarkable ability to analyze situations from various perspectives and confidently articulate an insightful and valuable opinion. While his leadership qualities and people skills enable him to effectively adapt to different situations and settings. I learned a lot from Tony as a colleague in the MBA program at Trinity Western University as well as through our various professional encounters since.
Tony Lapointe provides expert advice, an ability to focus on anticipated and required needs and performs the expectations of his professional position with integrity and compassion. These attributes contribute to a diverse and determined goal-directed personal strategy which emphasizes value toward human needs while addressing the appropriate allocation of resources where they will have the most benefit.

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