Budget 2017 earmarked a whopping $11 billion for housing and homelessness. There's no doubt this will have a big impact. However, these funds must not only build affordable housing, they must align with poverty reduction strategies and mental health and recovery initiatives if we are to truly reduce long-term homelessness.
The term "food desert" describes geographic areas with limited access to healthy food because the distance to the nearest supermarket is in excess of one km. Living far from healthier options forces many Canadians to fall back on higher priced convenience stores or to find ways to get to food stores elsewhere. Both options are costly.
As humans, we need to sleep. It is a biologically unavoidable act. Yet, on both sides of the border, "sleeping" can be considered a criminal act, especially if you are homeless and have no place to rest your head other than in public spaces such as parks. How have cities and states been able to impose and enforce by-laws and ordinances that clearly violate one's right to occupy public space for this very purpose? This summer several cases are putting this longstanding question to the legal test. The outcome might just change the way we view homelessness.
Governments of all levels across the country need to consider the mounting evidence for increasing climate variability and create actionable plans for vulnerable persons to ensure that those most likely to be adversely effected by extreme weather events are protected with the right supports. This must start with ending homelessness for as many Canadians as possible and closing the widening income gap that pushes far too many into poor quality housing.
All levels of government and the private sector must begin to see the tremendous social and economic benefits of doing the right thing. Canada can end homelessness and our elected officials have a duty to work together on funding community based solutions.
On any given night, thousands of Canadians languish in ramshackle housing, line up at shelters, or sleep in our streets and alleyways. This situation is not limited to our big cities, with the Homeless Hub estimating that on any given day, 30,000 Canadians are without homes. How can it be that in such a prosperous country, we continue to struggle to house those most in need?