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Homelessness

4/02/12 2:08pm

Ottawa Pays for Homes for Addicts

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Chris was homeless or in jail for 40 years.
Photo via

Drug addicts in Ottawa are being given homes in order to help them on the way to recovery, in a "housing first" approach. The Sandy Hill Community Health Center has established the Intensive Care Management program in order to get addicts off the streets and into better living situations. The $550,000 program—funded by the province—has enough money to house 96 people and has so far matched 66 with places to call their own. Residents receive money toward their rent, to ensure that they have no problem staying housed. "By giving them housing and helping them maintain it, you're giving them pride in themselves," says Jean-François Martinbault, who runs the program. "You're giving them a reason not to use drugs, you're giving them hope in the future," he says. Chris, 58, has seen a drastic change in his lifestyle since moving into his own apartment near Dow’s Lake last November. He spent the last 40 years of his life either homeless or in jail, and says that having his own apartment equipped with a bed, microwave and air conditioner is better than sliced bread. He receives social assistance as well as $450 per month to pay his rent, but he also maintains a part time job and volunteers at a needle exchange program. Although Chris still uses drugs, he's managed to stay away from hard drugs since participating in the program. "I'm not an angel, but it gives me purpose and meaning," he says. "It gives me a home."

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By Fionna Agomuoh

Recovery Memoirs

4/02/12 12:57pm

Olympic Swimmer Tells of Cutting, Drugs and Bulimia

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Amanda Beard preparing for the 2008
Olympics in Beijing. Photo via

Amanda Beard was America's sweetheart in 1996, when the then-14-year-old swimmer carried around a teddy bear while winning a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. But her life afterwards was anything but cushy. In her memoir out tomorrow, In The Water They Can't See You Cry, Beard opens up about struggling in her teens and early 20s with cutting, bulimia and drug use. “I work with a lot of young female athletes and moms,” says Beard. “And I felt like a fake standing up talking about everything in my life without saying that it was a roller coaster of a journey, that I have had hard, dark times." Now 30, happily married and the mother of a 2-year-old boy, Beard says her dark days are behind her thanks to therapy, a stint on medication and her marriage. She's also still actively swimming and will compete in the US Olympics trial this June, with the hopes of making her fifth consecutive Olympics in London this July. “I would not change anything about my life,” she adds. “That’s what makes you who you are, what sculpts and makes you stronger. I’m very much a stronger person in every aspect because of the things I went through.”

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By Fionna Agomuoh

Mexican drug war

4/02/12 12:05pm

Obama, Calderon and Harper to Talk Drug War

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Obama and Calderon in 2009 in Guadalajara,
pledging to combat drug trafficking. Photo via

Mexico's drug violence pandemic is tipped to be the hot topic during President Felipe Calderon's visit to the White House today. Mexico's president will meet with President Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the economy, climate change and security issues—but Mexico's ongoing, unchecked drug war may well take top priority. Since taking office in 2006, Calderon has made aggressive efforts to curb drug-related violence in Mexico, including reforming the judicial system, raising military salaries and deploying thousands of Mexican police to cartel-run areas. But these efforts have often seemed counter-productive, with violence escalating between warring cartels as military and police crack down, and Calderon has expressed guarded support for drug decriminalization in the US. Today's Rose Garden chat could focus on US involvement in the violence, with an estimated $2 billion a year in cash and arms flowing south into Mexico each year. Congress has authorized just $1.6 million in aid to help diminish the power of cartels; the war continues to rage south of the border and has claimed the lives of about 50,000 people since Calderon took over. This will his final visit to The White House before his six-year term ends in November.

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By May Wilkerson

Celebrity rehab

4/02/12 11:09am

Ewan McGregor Was a "Maniac on the Booze"

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The prolific British actor no longer gets
"blootered". Photo via

Ewan McGregor admits to being a maniac on booze, but is now 12 years sober. The Star Wars: Phantom Menace actor—who just turned 40—has been reminiscing about his past battles with the bottle. “I got away with it more or less unnoticed,” he says. “I was a maniac on the booze but I only remember it fondly.” After starring in Trainspotting back in 1996, McGregor transformed himself into a poster boy of the Britpop era. He recalls hanging with the likes of Oasis and Damon Albarn—and passing out in rooms across the country. McGregor had an eye-opening moment after an encounter with Iggy Pop, whom he ironically played in the film Velvet Goldmine. “He was playing at this Versace fashion show I’d been invited to, so I went backstage to meet him. But I was blootered by that point,” he recalls. “I came to my senses when something in my brain went, ‘What are you doing?’ He was just sitting there looking at me while I was dancing away, doing my Iggy Pop impersonation to Iggy Pop. It was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.” The sober star refers to his drinking days as “massive debauchery," but still sees his struggles as part of a valuable journey: “Your experience of life is what makes you who you are.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

Bad Sports

4/02/12 10:21am

Ex-NFL QB Busted for Burglary and Possession

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Leaf was already on probation. Photo via

Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf—who had spells with teams including the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboyswas arrested on Friday in his hometown of Great Falls, Montana on burglary and drug possession charges. After a month-long investigation, police believe that 35-year-old Leaf was breaking into an acquaintance's home to steal prescription pain medication, and may have broken into other homes, too. "We do have some information that this may not be an isolated incident," says Central Montana Drug Force Commander Chris Hickman. Leaf was also found with two bottles of oxycodone, for which he didn't have a prescription. Back in 2008, he was accused of burglarizing a player's home while working as a quarterbacks coach for Division II West Texas A&M. Investigators then found that he'd secured around 1,000 pain pills from local pharmacies in an eight-month span, which got him 10 years' probation. Leaf released a statement saying: "I've made some mistakes, and have no excuses. I am using the tools I've learned to move forward rather than backwards, and will be open to talking about the details in the days to come. I am confident that there will be further understanding when the facts are revealed, and feel very blessed for all of the support, especially from my friends and family." If his probation is revoked, he could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

4/02/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 2, 2012

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Not a teaching aid Thinkstock

By Will Godfrey

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