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.
When health care is positioned as a key way of managing social problems, we put enormous strain on the system. This forces us to be duct-tape doctors, trying our best to seal up the gaps in a patchwork system of inadequacies and shortfalls. Primary care in particular is perfectly situated to absorb the costs of poor social supports.
The recognition of housing as a human right by Minister Duclos' office could be the turning point -- not just for how we view housing, but for poverty and other economic rights violations as well. To see housing as a right looks beyond the physical structure of a shelter to a number of other factors: access to sanitation, location, and access to services or employment, community, security of tenure, and cultural adequacy, as well as other rights such as health, life and dignity.
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.