Saturday, December 20, 2008

Make it illegal to allow homelessness


I have an infrastructure plan.

We have bailed out the banks to the tune of $75 billion by buying the conservative made sub-prime mortgages that were created over the last two years. We are paying $800 million for roads in Alberta and $200 million as our share of the Asper family National museum in Winnipeg of all places.

We have just temporarily bailed out GM and Chrysler by providing $4 billion in loans, which I agree with if it will save jobs and Harper’s new found interest running a deficit and saving the economy is also expected to include additional bailouts of forestry, mining and at some time I guess the oil companies.

Well I think it is time that we bail out the homeless.

When I was a kid, in my late teens you got hassled by the cops if they found you on Yonge Street after the bars closed. You couldn’t sleep in a doorway or over a grate wrapped in blanket. If they found you in an alley or sleeping in a park they arrested you.

When you arrived in a new city, you had to find some where to crash, moving in with like minded souls, or some middle aged entrepreneur that was running a flop house. There were no shelters or hostels, just the Y which you stayed away from at all costs.
Now the cops hand out sleeping bags and organizations, nightly, send out volunteers to assist homeless individuals providing coffee and nourishment or transportation to shelters.
In San Francisco they even pay homeless people (or at least the entrepreneurs that are managing the service) weekly fees, to sleep in the doorways of retail stores, as an added form of security.
At my comfortable age of sixty I have no idea what the inside of a shelter looks like and whether the environment after the lights go out is too physically dangerous or mind altering to one’s soul, a humane offering or a degrading solution.

But it appears that we either do not have enough sheltered spaces or there are too many homeless individuals who can not or will accept the environment provided.
Yesterday morning a 47-year-old woman's body was found burning in a makeshift shelter built around a shopping cart, near the corner Davie and Hornby streets in Vancouver. She had started a fire to keep warm. 
Apparently today the police can not force people off the streets no matter how cold the weather.
We need to make a change.

Toronto for example needs to build homes for 40,000 people, affordable, houses, townhouses and/or apartments. Homes not shelters that can be purchased, rented or given to Toronto’s homeless.

According to the Homeless Nation there were just over 30,000 homeless individuals in Toronto in 2003, including 4,800 children and the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee estimates that 4 to 6 homeless people die every week on Toronto's streets.

Calgary has put together a ten year plan to eliminate homelessness and one of the key elements is to eliminate the morale bureaucracy that places in some cases unacceptable burdens on the homeless to qualify.
We must break the bureaucratic stranglehold that bedevils our current system—a system in which the homeless cannot be housed until their situation has improved, but their situation cannot improve until they are housed. 
Traditional models place requirements on the homeless that limit their ability to establish a more stable and sustainable lifestyle. We need to embrace a Housing First model, where the first priority for programs serving people experiencing homelessness is permanent housing with the support necessary to sustain that housing.
The housing first model is the answer and there is no better time to implement it than now, nationally across Canada.

It looks like a $10 billion bailout of the construction industry to me, that should get people working and hey it help out the forestry at the same time.


I think, I am turning into a socialist. Jack about the support the union thing, is that still a prerequisite.



JAWL

3 comments:

Chrystal Ocean said...

Agree with almost entirely what you write above.

My hesitation is with your title. On one interpretation, it could mean that the homeless themselves would be subjected to the law. I suspect you mean the other, though, that those who permit conditions which produce homelessness should be held legally accountable.

Also, in terms of housing, some people who are homeless are uncomfortable in standard bricks-and-mortar housing and do not want to be subjects of charity (as they may feel they are when given or pushed into public housing, for example). Those individuals should be left alone to build and keep their tent cities, not have their communities destroyed by the unthinking, clueless powers-that-be.

JAWL said...

I did have trouble the title and in reality it had less to do with ensuing post, but more to do with my simplistic way of viewing the world.

Our governments acting in our name stopped providing affordable housing. We have reduced the length of time for unemployment insurance, we have failed to increase welfare assistance over 1980
levels.

And now we have accepted people living on the street and rationalize it by saying it is their right, but we do give them sleeping bags.

It seems all too easy on our side.

So I guess the title means that both sides have to give up something, the homeless don't have the right to live on the street because it has become an excuse for inaction and the government doesn't have the right to allow them to be homeless, so they need to address the problem.

And the housing first model seems like a place to start.

But hey everything is 256 shades of gray to me.

Thank you for the "communities destroyed" link, well written and very insightful.

Gary Baumgarten said...

We'll be talking about the problem of homelessness in America on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com at 5 PM New York time Monday December 29 with my guest, Lindsey Davis, from the Coalition for the Homeless.

Please go to www.garybaumgarten.com and click on the Join The Show link to participate.

Thanks,

Gary