By André Faust (Nov 21, 2016)
Homelessness, at any given time there can be up to 35,000 Canadians out on the streets either without a roof over their heads living on the streets or using a shelter for refuge. For some, they may not have access to the “soup kitchen” A term that originated during the great depression of the 30’s, which means that there are some who are going hungry as we feast on steak and foods from the major food groups.
Who are these desolate people? These people fall into several common categories, Those with mental or physical limitations, loss of employment without a safety net to catch them. Those with criminal records and records of non-conviction who have for all practical purposes has become unemployable, those with addictions, drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions. Lastly, those few who choose the homeless lifestyle over the “normal” lifestyle.
There are many Canadians, who have not encountered any major l catastrophic critical events in their life lack any empathy towards those who have fallen out of mainstream society. Instead of trying to understand the sociological complexities and solution to the causes of homelessness, tend to categorize the homeless into what Hindus refer as the “class of untouchables”.
Whether we accept or not Homelessness and it’s symbiotic partner poverty affects as all as a society we pay for one way or another. There is countless of studies that show the additional cost in health care and the to the justice and penal system.
In an excellent commentary in the Yukon news, Bill Thomas chair of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition’s housing task force and chair of the Yukon Planning Group on Homelessness describes the result of Medicine hat’s initiative to eradicate homelessness and poverty by supply housing.
Medicine Hat, Alta. has a great story. In a city of around 61,000, some 875 homeless people have received secure homes in supportive or subsidised housing between 2009 and 2015. Of those, 285 were children.
The city’s first homeless count in 2014 found five people sleeping rough on the street, 30 staying in emergency shelters and 29 people in transitional, rent-geared-to-income accommodation. (Thomas, 2016)
Providing homes to the homeless save money in the long term according to Benjamin Gillies consultant on urban planning and energy. In British Columbian, it is costing approximately 55,000$ per year for each homeless person in the province however by providing the homeless population housing that cost is reduced to 37,000 per year, thus saving the province 211 million per year. (Gilles, 2012)
The reason is best given in by an American Study which supports the cost saving aspect of providing housing, the report says as a result of providing housing for the homeless resulted in a significant decrease in healthcare cost he found that there was a 78% reduction in emergency room visits and 79% reduction in hospital stays. He also noted that there was a signification decrease in jail time (84%) and a corresponding decrease in arrest down by 78%. (Miles, 2015).
The reduction is largely due to a decrease in crimes related to homelessness, such as trespassing, loitering, public urination, begging and public consumption of alcohol. (Miles, 2015)
What these examples show is that are solutions to resolve the homeless issue.
On November 14, 2016, Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien announced the creation of a Task Force who’s mandate is to study the homeless population in Fredericton and come with recommendations on resolving the problem
Mike O’Brien has for many years been deeply involved in Homeless and poverty issues, and as Mayor is continuing his efforts to mitigate the living conditions for those at the extreme end of the poverty spectrum.
If the task force studies that have been done in other North American studies their recommendations will have to include the availability of housing for the homeless.
The following is an excerpt from the City of Fredericton website on the creation of the Task Force on Homelessness.
Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness
The second announcement of the night was the creation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, a community- and City-driven initiative to identify actions within the City’s jurisdiction to help Fredericton end long-term, persistent homelessness and increase affordable housing options.
The Task Force will develop innovative, evidence-based recommendations to help meet goals set in The Road Home, a plan to end sustained homelessness in Fredericton developed by the Community Action Group on Homelessness.
“The plan is in action, but it needs more support from our caring community, and from the City,” said Mayor O’Brien. “Through the work of the task force, we will engage our community to break down barriers between governments and service providers, to advise how the City can develop new policies and designs to promote affordable housing, and to contribute financially, in a meaningful way, to this cause.”
The task force will be made up of architects, designers, builders, private, non-profit and public sector property developers, non-profit associations, apartment owners, and academics. It will have four months to develop recommendations for Council to approve and act on to help Fredericton become a more sustainable, diverse and affordable city.
In addition to Mayor O’Brien, who will co-chair the task force, the leadership team includes:
Coun. Eric Price: Chair of the City of Fredericton Affordable Housing Committee and Task Force Co-Chair
Jennifer Landry: Chair of the Flows Working Group
Sandi MacKinnon: Chair of the Partnerships Working Group,
John Leroux: Chair of the Form Working Group
Coun. John McDermid and Jason LeJeune: Co-chairs of the Finance Working Group
“Changing the way we respond to homelessness will require the collective effort of all levels of government, service providers, our faith-based community, private and non-profit sectors, along with the efforts of individual citizens,” said Mayor O’Brien. “There is a place for everyone in this bold vision, and we need everyone’s involvement to achieve it.” (Mayor Announces Location, 2016)
For more information, visit www.roadhomefredericton.com.
Gillies, B (2012). “Giving the Homeless a Place to Live Costs Less than Providing Shelters and Emergency Services | Toronto Star.” Thestar.com. N.p., 26 Dec. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/10/15/giving_the_homeless_a_place_to_live_costs_less_than_providing_shelters
“Mayor Announces Location for Performing Arts Centre, Homelessness Task Force.” City of Fredericton. N.p., 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. http://www.fredericton.ca/en/news/city-hall/mayor-announces-location-for-performing-arts-centre-homelessness-task-force>.
Miles , K (2015) Housing The Homeless Not Only Saves Lives — It’s Actually Cheaper Than Doing Nothing. N.p., 25 Mar. 2015. Retrieved on Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/housing-first-homeless-charlotte_n_5022628.html>.
Thomas, B (2016) “Ending Homelessness in Yukon.” Ending Homelessness in Yukon. N.p., 23 Mar. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. http://www.yukon-news.com/letters-opinions/Ending-homelessness-in-Yukon/>.