On March 11, 2015, Toronto City Council finally approved funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth transitional housing. Although I am extremely disappointed that LGBTQ2S youth homelessness has been inadequately addressed for so many years, I am grateful that there is more understanding and awareness of this social justice crisis. I am also grateful that more organizations are now committed to developing campaigns and programs for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
Mayor Ted Clugston of Medicine Hat, Alberta has become the reluctant spokesperson for a controversial approach to reducing homelessness. Reluctant because just a few years ago, he opposed the initiative. Sometime in 2015, Medicine Hat will become the first municipality in Canada to eradicate homelessness.
We know the dangers of having too many choices -- but what about not having any? Who in their "right mind" (you might wonder how many of "those" people are mentally sound and might be surprised to know the vast majority are) would sleep on a bench in "last seasons" (off-trend or simply off-prudence) clothes in freezing cold weather?
On December 1, the Ontario Court of Appeal failed Canadians who are homeless or living in substandard conditions. By ruling that the Government of Canada has no obligation to provide "affordable, adequate, and accessible housing" to its citizens, the Court sanctioned the government's abdication of responsibility for housing and dealt a significant blow to vulnerable Canadians.
The real news in the recent Hunger Count 2014 report is not that 841,191 people came to food banks for help in one month -- a number 25 per cent higher than in 2008. Nor is it the realization that close to 40 per cent of food bank recipients are children. No, the overarching narrative is how the presence of food banks in most communities has come to represent the failure of imagination for a country and its citizens.
Truth is, that wasn't normal by any means. As a society, our relationship with homeless people is simple; either you drop a coin or walk by. It's impossible to connect with people as people because we let ourselves get divided only by borders, but also by our occupations, social status, and other arbitrary self-imposed barriers.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada got $110 million from Health Canada for a homelessness study conducted in five cities. While I am all in favour of research, I have to wonder if this project was necessary. This research has already been done in other countries. How many times do you have to replicate a study before you accept the results? This is more money spent on research and not on housing and treating the most vulnerable in our society.
Shelters and soup kitchens haven't demonstrated an ability to provide long term solutions for the majority of chronically homeless people. They should be an integral part of alleviating homelessness, but they don't have the financial capacity to solve the problem on their own. Moreover, it isn't fair to let City residents bear the entire cost.
The really unfortunate part of the "homeless spikes" panic is that everyone leapt to blame the property owners rather than addressing the issue: we have a homelessness problem. Gawking at the symptoms rather than searching for a cure is a waste of time. Those solutions exist, and are widely agreed upon by experts. It's time that provinces and municipalities move aggressively to mitigate homelessness.
In the 21st century, we spend a lot of time looking down -- obsessively checking our phones, typing away at our computers, or absorbed in a TV screen. Every now and then our point of view needs a little refreshing, which is why I wanted to focus on the "forgotten" wall of interior design -- the ceiling!