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Sen. Art Eggleton

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The Bill That Could Help Solve Homelessness

Posted: 02/25/2013 10:06 am

This week, MPs will vote on whether bill C-400 should be sent to committee. The bill seeks to establish a national housing strategy which I have been advocating for many years.

I think all of us understand intuitively the importance of having decent shelter. A home anchors a person, a family, provides the foundation for higher educational attainment and leads to greater stability in the work place. Health experts also tell us that adequate housing is a key determinant of health and long-term health outcomes.

Today in Canada, four million people are struggling to find affordable housing. These are the most vulnerable among us -- lower income Canadians or those living on a fixed income, such as seniors.

By addressing the housing issue we can also address homelessness as well. Helping the homeless is not just about doing the morally right thing, it's also about dollars and cents. The fact is that it is more expensive for us to leave someone on the street than to provide them with decent housing and support services.

There have been several studies that show the average homeless person costs society roughly $100,000 a year including health costs. The annual cost per person drops to about $35,000 annually if that person is given a long-term home with supports.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point, wrote an article for the New Yorker about "Million Dollar Murray" -- a man who lived on the street, in jails, in hospital emergency rooms and hostels. He suffered from addictions, and in the end died on the street. The "million dollars" refers to the cost to the taxpayers. How much better and cheaper it would have been to help him overcome these problems.

So we need to do a better job on both housing and homelessness. C-400 is a framework for moving ahead. There are some details that need to be examined at committee, including the role of provincial and territorial governments. The best role that Ottawa can play is to provide a long-term, stable source of funding for new affordable housing projects and for the maintenance of existing housing projects.

Housing and homelessness is not benign. It affects us all. It costs us all. It's time to move forward with a national housing strategy as provided for in bill C-400.

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  • Juan Lopez, a resident at Verde Gardens, helps prepare the land to be planted with seasonal vegetables.

  • Juan Lopez, a resident at Verde Gardens, helps prepare the land to be planted with seasonal vegetables.

  • Norman Van Aken, the head chef at Tuyo, visits the farm.

  • Angie, a rescued horse who does her share at the farm with grazing and fertilizing.

  • An herb garden, using a spiraling structure for optimum rainwater usage.

  • At the farm's nursery.

  • Plants at the farm's nursery.

  • Three men prepare the land for seasonal vegetables to be planted.

  • A loofah vegetable, which is harvested and turned into the shower sponges.

  • Alma Santos, who works at the farmer's market, spends some time with Angie, a horse that was rescued.

  • A rooster wanders on the farm. The eggs the chickens lay are sold at the farmer's markt every week.

  • In between seasons, workers on the farm at Verde Gardens are working to prepare the land for the next crop.

  • One of the 145 town homes at Verde Gardens.

  • Alma Santos decorated the wall of her living room with photos of her and her son.

  • Alma Santos never thought she would have a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home after living in shelters and an efficiency with her son.

  • Alma Santos proudly stands at the door of her home at Verde Gardens.

  • Inside, Alma Santos leaves a positive note for her 12-year-old son, Jaime, to read on his way out the door for school in the morning.

  • Courtney Hill, a resident at Verde Gardens, is a volunteer coordinator at Verde Gardens. She used her love for children to create a summer camp program run entirely by volunteers, as well as other activities for children who live in the shelter and at the housing units.

  • The farmer's market is open Fridays from 2 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 12690 SW 280 St. in Homestead.

  • Jarred babaganoush at the farmer's market.

  • Jarred jams at the farmer's market.

  • Dried fruit and vegetables at the farmer's market.

  • Squashes collected from the farm for the market

  • Former President Bill Clinton works on a mural during his 2010 visit, during the Clinton Global Initiative's Day of Service program. Clinton was joined by former Miami Heat basketball player to tour the community.

  • The completed mural, one of many hanging throughout the offices at Verde Gardens.

  • Former President Bill Clinton's painted signature on the mural.

  • Alma Santos with her son, Jaime, at dinner at Tuyo in Miami. The residents were invited to a dinner made with fresh produce from the farm.

  • Alma Santos with her son, Jaime, at dinner at Tuyo in Miami. The residents were invited to a dinner made with fresh produce from the farm.