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Picture of Toronto homelessness emerging from research into Out of the Cold program

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Dennis Brooks says there are no warm places when you’re homeless. He should know. Originally from Glace Bay, N.S., Brooks, 54, was homeless in Toronto on and off for more than 20 years.

“Nobody’s experienced what we have, up and down these hard roads,” Brooks said while sitting in a church near Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. “People have been beaten and beaten and beaten all our lives, like myself.”

During his homeless years, which ended this fall, Brooks says he drank too much, used drugs and was in and out of relationships. He was terribly lonely. He was assaulted. In summer, he would sometimes live in a tent. Mostly, though, he says he was careful not to mess with the wrong people.

He began to cry when he talked about all he has been through.

“Where do you draw the line?” he says.

Brooks is one of about 90 people who has taken part in a research project on homelessness being conducted by Dixon Hall, a non-profit, multi-service agency that provides programs and services to Toronto’s most vulnerable residents. A final report is to be released in the spring.

“I was asked how can I help the next guy,” Brooks says. “If I can change things, that’s good for me.” 

Nadia Jamil, principal researcher at Dixon Hall, says the research project was launched because the agency wants to understand why some homeless people use the Out of the Cold program year after year and why they prefer it to a more formal shelter system. (Kali Madej/ Dixon Hall)

Dixon Hall is aiming to deepen its understanding of the complex needs of homeless people who use Toronto’s Out of the Cold program. Its housing services department operates two emergency shelters, Schoolhouse and Heyworth House, and provides support to 16 Out of the Cold sites in Toronto.

Project 1st to interview Out of Cold users

Out of the Cold is a program offered by faith-based organizations that began over 30 years ago in Toronto as an emergency response to prevent homeless people from freezing to death in winter. The 16 organizations open their doors one night per week to the city’s homeless, providing a nutritious meal, a mat to sleep on and TTC tokens. 

The program, which runs from November to April, relies heavily on volunteers. Some sites provide clothing, a nurse on site and access to a client intervention worker. Dixon Hall has been supporting the program since 2003, sharing resources, client intervention workers and data co-ordination.

A man sleeps on a vent outside a Toronto hospital. A Street Needs Assessment published by the city includes an estimate of the number of people who sleep outdoors. (Doug Ives/Canadian Press)

In its 2017 to 2018 season, about 1,260 people used the program. A total of 27,150 meals were served and 18,262 tokens distributed.

The Innovative Solutions to Homelessness Project, which received a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada of $288,421, is the first formal one of its kind to interview Out of the Cold program users, according to Dixon Hall. It began in January 2018. 

Researchers have held four focus groups with 31 homeless people and conducted 75 one-on-one surveys in June and October. They have also given 70 cell phones to homeless participants to stay in touch with them as data is collected.

About 12 cell phones, months after they were handed out, are still in use. 

Participants include not only Out of the Cold program users, but also homeless people who use the city’s shelter system.

According to the city’s Street Needs Assessment, published in November, the number of homeless people in Toronto staying outdoors, in emergency shelters, and in correctional and health care facilities on the night of April 26, 2018 was estimated to be 8,715. 

‘Community of acquaintances’ exists in program

Nadia Jamil, principal researcher at Dixon Hall, said a picture of homelessness in Toronto is emerging from the research, but it is complex. Jamil said Dixon Hall launched the project largely to understand why a specific group of homeless people is using the Out of the Cold program year after year, and why they prefer it to the more formal shelter system. 

“Basically, within the Out of the Cold program, there is a sense of community that exists, even if it’s a community of acquaintances. It seems like guests look out for each other. They notice if somebody is missing,” she says.

First Interfaith runs its Out of the Cold program at St. Matthew’s United Church in Toronto. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

According to preliminary findings, Out of the Cold program users report they prefer the faith-based organizations to shelters because they are concerned about hygiene, violence and theft at shelters.

As well, they are concerned that, when it comes to barring guests due to disruptive behaviour, practices vary from site to site. Some suggested that the Out of the Cold season could be extended and more sites available in the middle of the week to ensure there is more than one site open per night.

‘Hard to be in such close quarters with the same people’

Shelter residents, according to the preliminary findings, are fearful about losing their beds.

“It’s hard to be in such close quarters with the same people night after night,” Jamil says.

The shelter residents report they want more information about available services, to search more independently for housing, and more counselling available in house because they are sharing space with people who have mental health issues. They also want more affordable housing, assisted living and life skills development.

The city will set up three of these tented structures to help house members of Toronto’s homeless population. (Lauren Pelley / CBC News)

When it comes to barriers to housing, both groups report experiencing discrimination from landlords. Many Out of the Cold users report being uninterested in housing because they cannot afford it, they haven’t paid their taxes, they have bad credit, they have criminal records, buildings are unsafe, or they need more supports to maintain housing.

“We just need to remember that the homeless community is not a homogeneous community. There are so many diverse voices within it. Some people are just not interested in being housed,” she added.

Technology used to help, Freedom Mobile says

Freedom Mobile donated the Samsung cellphones, each with seven-month paid data plans. Participants who still have phones will be able to keep them but the paid plan will be discontinued.

The phones were in part meant to be a direct connection between homeless people and client intervention workers who could help them find housing.

A Freedom Mobile spokesperson says the company was pleased to help.

“We saw this as an opportunity to use technology to help individuals during a difficult time of year, and support our partners as they strive to find innovative solutions that create a better Toronto,” says Chetham Lakshman, vice-president, external affairs for Freedom Mobile.

Mayor John Tory helped to hand out Thanksgiving dinner this year at Good Shepherd Ministries, a charity in downtown Toronto for homeless people. (CBC)

Jamil acknowledges that the cellphones did not work out as planned. 

“A lot of the guests had difficulty around theft, around losing them, around people stealing them where they were staying, or some were broken, and things like that. Also, we don’t actually know what happened to some,” she said.

“This was also part of the research, testing whether technology can help build a bridge with such a marginalized, precarious community.”

‘Just listen to us’

For his part, Brooks, who still has the cellphone he was given, said he obtained housing with the help of Dixon Hall. On Oct. 1, he moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the east end where there are food banks close by.

“It feels good. It feels warm. And nobody can bother you.”

Asked what he would tell Toronto Mayor John Tory about being homeless, Dennis Brooks says: ‘Just listen. Just listen to us. We’re people.’ (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

But he said it has been a journey. Having moved here when he was seven, he grew up in low income housing in the west end. His parents never really cared about him, he says. He failed every course he took in high school. At 18, he was homeless for the first time. A large part of his life was spent on the streets. He has held jobs and is talking about going back to school. He has a son, 28, who has a job and family in Oakville, Ont.

On Christmas Day, he plans to invite five of his friends over — “the boys”— who live in tents. “I got presents for everyone of them,” he says.

Asked what he would tell Toronto Mayor John Tory about being homeless, he said: “Just listen. Just listen to us. We’re not rich, we’re not poor, but we’re people.” 

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Herbal remedies: Saw palmetto for hair loss prevention

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(Natural News) Saw palmetto is a small, shrub-like palm endemic to the United States. Known for its medicinal properties, saw palmetto has been used for centuries to treat reproductive issues and hormonal imbalance.

Today, saw palmetto is used as an ingredient in many hair growth products and supplements, as it is thought to prevent hair loss. This could be due to saw palmetto’s influence on the hormones that dictate hair growth.

Saw palmetto for hair loss

There is evidence to suggest that saw palmetto can help treat hair loss and prevent its occurrence. According to a 2012 study, saw palmetto could inhibit 5-alpha reductase (5-AR). 5-AR converts testosterone, a male sex hormone, into a more potent hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Research shows that high levels of DHT can shrink hair follicles and result in hair loss. DHT also makes it harder for hair follicles to grow new hair once the old hairs fall out. By inhibiting 5-AR, saw palmetto blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

In another 2012 study, researchers evaluated the effects of saw palmetto supplementation in men with mild or moderate androgenetic alopecia, or male-pattern baldness. One group received 320 milligrams (mg) of saw palmetto every day for two years, while another group took one mg of finasteride, a conventional drug used to treat hair loss.

The results showed that 38 percent of participants who supplemented with saw palmetto experienced improvements in hair growth, compared to 68 percent of those who supplemented with finasteride.

While the experiment showed that finasteride was more effective, the researchers noted that saw palmetto may be less likely to work in people with more severe cases of hair loss. More research is needed to confirm this.

Saw palmetto is available in several forms, including oral supplements and hair care products like conditioners and shampoos.

Due to limited research on the use of saw palmetto for hair loss, there is no official recommended dosage for it. That said, a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery cited a recommended dosage of 160 mg twice daily for saw palmetto tablets. Researchers often use this dosage when studying with saw palmetto.

Take note that saw palmetto has been reported to sometimes cause mild side effects, such as headaches and stomachaches. If in doubt about using saw palmetto, consult a natural health practitioner.

Other natural remedies for hair loss

Hair growth depends on several factors, including a person’s genetic makeup. Still, some home remedies might help prevent hair loss and/or encourage hair growth. These remedies include:

  • Jojoba oil – Jojoba oil helps nourish hair follicles without leaving any residue behind. It also stimulates hair cells to grow faster.
  • Aloe vera – Aloe vera helps get rid of sebum buildup in the scalp. Sebum is a natural oil that helps keep the scalp moisturized. It can build up on the scalp and clog hair follicles due to poor hair hygiene.
  • Garlic – The pungent compounds in garlic help increase blood circulation in the scalp, which stimulates hair growth. These compounds also stimulate the synthesis of collagen, a protein that gives structure to hair.
  • Onion – Like garlic, onions boost blood flow in the scalp for better hair growth.
  • Licorice root – Licorice root helps relieve dry and irritated scalp. It also strengthens weak follicles.
  • Rosemary oil – Rosemary oil has antiseptic properties. It is ideal for treating scalp issues that slow hair growth, such as dandruff and bacterial infections.
  • Coconut milk – Coconut milk helps moisturize a dry scalp, which is a leading cause of hair loss.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar works as a clarifying agent, ridding the scalp of extra sebum and other residues that can clog hair follicles and inhibit hair growth.

Some hair loss is natural. But for mild to moderate cases of hair loss, it might help to use herbal remedies, such as saw palmetto, to strengthen hair or encourage hair growth.

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Scientist that condemned coronavirus lab leak theory admits he squashed it to protect Chinese scientists

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(Natural News) An American scientist who criticized theories that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) might have accidentally escaped or leaked from a Chinese laboratory has admitted that he was denouncing the idea in order to protect Chinese scientists.

Dr. Peter Daszak, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nongovernmental organization that conducts scientific and policy research regarding emerging diseases, led an endeavor in February 2020 to quash any kind of suspicion that COVID-19 might have accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research and academic institution supported by the Chinese state.

This culminated in a statement published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet that condemned the “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 doesn’t have a natural origin.”

The Lancet article was written during the very early stages of the global pandemic, during a time when there wasn’t any kind of rigorous research on the origins of the virus.

Daszak further reiterated his support for China in a statement released on Feb. 6, stating that he stands with other scientists to “strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that 2019-nCoV does not have a natural origin. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that this virus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging diseases.”

In June, Daszak also wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian titled: “Ignore the conspiracy theories: scientists know COVID-19 wasn’t created in a lab.”

But on Friday, Jan. 15, Daszak’s spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that his statement, which has been used to silence anybody with a dissenting opinion regarding the origins of the coronavirus, was published to protect Chinese scientists from criticism.

The Lancet letter was written during a time in which Chinese scientists were receiving death threats and the letter was intended as a showing of support for them as they were caught between important work trying to stop an outbreak and the crush of online harassment.”

WHO team heads to Wuhan to probe virus origin

The situation surrounding Daszak’s initial statements and his sudden retraction are being compounded by the fact that the doctor is part of an international 15-member team of experts sent by the World Health Organization (WHO)to Wuhan to figure out the origins of the coronavirus.

According to the WHO, the team’s official mission is to determine how, where and when the virus crossed from animals to humans.

Daszak has been tweeting about the mandatory quarantine period he and his team are going through. During day four of quarantine, he said that the day, like the previous days, is “packed” with virtual meetings.

Day 6 of quarantine lockdown in Wuhan & it’s that special time for our friendly health care workers to swab for our PCR tests – they go deep, but they’re very cheerful about it. Xie xie! pic.twitter.com/QvKzgC0Lng

— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) January 20, 2021

Peter Ben Embarek, team leader and WHO food safety and animal diseases expert, said that the team will be granted permission “to move around and meet our Chinese counterparts in person and go to the different sites that we want to visit,” once they’re done with the mandatory quarantine period.

It is unclear whether the WHO team will be looking into the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the theory that the coronavirus was engineered. Embarek has stated his desire to visit the “famous Wuhan market” to try and determine “everything that went in and out” of there in the weeks before the first confirmed cases.

Embarek is referring to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where many wild animals were often sold. This place is being investigated as a likely setting for the supposed “animal-to-human jump” of the coronavirus, or a place where that jump was accelerated.

“We know the virus originated in bats at some point, and then we know that human cases appeared in Wuhan in December 2019,” said Embarek. “But what happened in between, how many other animal species were involved in between, and where, remain to be found in more detail.”

“We don’t really know what happened in that period of time, and that’s what we are looking out for.”

Questions will remain regarding the role of the institute in the initial outbreak; questions that will continue to linger if WHO team does not conduct its investigation.

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even said that the government has reason to believe that several researchers working for the institute “became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

Pompeo said that this calls into question the claims made by Shi Zhengli, the institute’s senior researcher on bat-related viruses, that there had been “zero [COVID-19 or SARS-related] infection” among the institute’s student body and staff.

Pompeo noted that the possibility of an “accidental infection” in a lab is more likely than people might think, especially considering that such an incident has already occurred in China. In 2004, a SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people and killed one originated in a research facility.

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California healthcare workers suffer severe allergic reactions following coronavirus vaccination

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(Natural News) Six healthcare workers suffered allergic reactions after getting a shot of Moderna coronavirus vaccine in San Diego, California. Their symptoms were considered severe and required medical attention.

The doses administered to the six healthcare workers were part of the Moderna Lot 041L20A distributed to 287 providers across the state earlier this month. That batch of shipment, which arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, is composed of 330,000 shots.

Moderna said in a statement that it is cooperating with California’s health department to investigate the allergic reactions.

“Moderna acknowledges receiving a report from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that a number of individuals at one vaccination center were treated for possible allergic reactions after vaccination from one lot of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine,” the statement read. “The company is fully cooperating with CDPH in investigating these reported adverse events.”

Dr. Erica Pan, California’s state epidemiologist, said Sunday, Jan. 17, that providers should err on the side of caution and stop using the doses until federal, state and company officials finish an investigation.

“Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Moderna and the state is complete,” she said.

Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz have already paused distribution while two Covid-19 vaccine clinics have been canceled in Stanislaus County following the allergic reaction reports.

The delay was a huge blow to California’s vaccine distribution efforts. California currently has the second highest number of coronavirus cases per capita in the United States, with Los Angeles being a particular hotspot.

All cases of apparent allergic reactions occurred at San Diego County’s drive-through mass vaccination site at Petco Park. No other providers have reported allergic reactions to vaccines administered from the same batch of doses.

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