One of the biggest factors that determines whether people will stay healthy or wind up needing emergency or chronic medical care is where they live. People without access to stable housing are at higher risk of illness, and their likelihood of recovering well from that illness is greatly diminished.
Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia remain rampant in most institutional settings, including schools, healthcare facilities, and shelters and housing programs. LGBTQ2S youth remain largely overrepresented in the homeless youth population, with estimates as high as up to 40 per cent of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ2S.
Unlike those of us with homes and adequate incomes, people living in poverty are targeted and ticketed for activities necessary to their survival: sleeping in a park, vending goods on the sidewalk, or even setting up a basic shelter such as a tarp or a box in order to survive the night. Municipal bylaws prohibiting those activities stand in the way of people's safety and survival.
It can take less than 10 seconds for a youth to become homeless. In York Region, homeless youth, more often than not, do not fit the stereotypical profile. Unlike urban centres, these young people are often homeless not just due to poverty. They stem from middle-class families and end up on the street for a variety of reasons.
What we have done for far too long is simply not working. Even with all the social supports in place, the resulting income is often only enough to maintain a family in poverty. At their worst, existing policies and programs actually entrap people in poverty. This is why we need a new way. A basic income would work as a tax credit administered through the taxation system similar to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors. If someone earns less or has less than the poverty line, they would simply be topped up to a point above the poverty line.
Each year, 360⁰kids -- an organization that provides a range of services to York Region's homeless youth -- encourages local community members to experience homelessness, just for one night a year. Last March, our group made it through some bone-chilling temperatures. I will do it again this year. For more than 300 youth in a region that's home to large detached homes and flourishing businesses, they've lost count of how many nights they've been homeless. It's an issue that doesn't get enough attention.
I can't truly explain how exhausting, challenging and incredibly cold this night was. I had been given a real-life scenario of a homeless youth as a part of 360°kids' 360°Experience. Our experience had us stepping into the shoes of a 16-year-old male, who was unsafe at home and had to leave quickly to save himself.
Over the past decade, Canada has seen a proliferation of high quality, thoughtful research on homelessness. We now know that homelessness is caused by a combination of individual and systemic factors from unemployment and disability, to lack of coordinated services and a hostile housing market. While the solutions to homelessness are complex, the cause is simple: a lack of affordable housing.
The holiday season is truly a magical time of year. It is a time for giving, reflection, and appreciation. Many individuals and organizations come together and show thanks by donating what they can to those in need. Unfortunately, the holidays will not be magical for everyone, especially not for a high proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth who have experienced familial, societal, and institutional rejection. The holidays can be an especially lonely time for many, particularly for those without a safe place to call home.