[Hpn] People deserve housing

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Mon, 16 Jul 2007 18:58:46 -0400


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http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/236215


The message is simple: People deserve housing
Jul 16, 2007=20

Cathy Crowe=20

I am a street nurse in Toronto, but over the past three years I have =
visited more than two dozen Canadian communities facing an equally =
severe housing crisis.=20

These communities invited me to examine their homeless situation and =
suggest strategies to make their political leaders listen up. I toured =
shelters, drop-ins, soup kitchens, food banks and outreach programs. I =
met with front-line workers and heard directly from homeless people. I =
met with charitable foundations, faith groups, university leaders and =
public health experts.=20

In each community I took pictures of their wartime housing and asked to =
see their affordable housing units built in the '70s and '80s. Sadly, =
there were very few affordable housing units built in the last 15 years =
for me to tour.=20

Why? Because our federal housing program (yes, we once had one!) was =
destroyed in 1993. Imagine if that happened to medicare. Since the =
demise of our housing program there have been only piecemeal, sparsely =
funded and minimalist programs.

Take Northern Ontario, for example, where the meagre mix of =
federal-provincial housing dollars doesn't allow new affordable housing =
units to be built. Instead, the money can be used only for renovations =
or retrofits - despite a 1 per cent vacancy rate in communities like =
Sault Ste. Marie.=20

The result? Families are living in untenable, mould-filled houses in the =
countryside, in tents, trailer parks or relying on "Greyhound therapy" - =
they leave town by bus for another community that might have a shelter.

There is no question that circumstances today, compared with 1998, when =
hundreds of organizations declared homelessness a national disaster, are =
more catastrophic. Homelessness is our Katrina, but it wasn't caused by =
the weather. Perhaps because the problem is now so visible, some =
unexpected groups of people are demonstrating political literacy. They =
get it.

Take the Grade 4 students in Toronto who made cards for homeless people =
on National Housing Day. The crayoned images showed homes, happiness, =
food, friends and family. Their messages emphasized home, "I hope you =
will have a home again some day soon."=20

Simple, right? The messages went beyond fear, beyond blame, right to the =
point - people deserve housing. Their common sense challenges the usual =
class assignment of collecting socks and hygiene products for "the =
homeless."

Then there is the Ontario Chamber of Commerce which, recognizing the =
importance of long-term and sustained funding for the province's social =
housing stock (co-op, non-profit and public housing), recently passed a =
series of motions calling for more affordable housing, and that full =
responsibility for social housing be uploaded back to the province.=20

Community leaders in the cities I have visited realize that it is =
negligent, and harmful to children's health, that their community has =
not responded to growing family homelessness by opening designated =
family shelters. They all know the facts: the number of years a family =
must wait on the housing list, the low vacancy rates and the negative =
impact of moving a family into an isolated motel away from the downtown =
core and support services, or forcing families to sleep in church =
basements.=20

These community leaders are now angry that families and children are =
being used as pawns in the negligent fiscal fight between federal and =
provincial governments. A growing number of people are starting to ask: =
"Where's the housing?"=20

Community organizations in Thunder Bay held a day-long forum on housing =
that had standing-room-only attendance. Despite invitations from the =
organizers, not one federal, provincial or municipal politician (nor any =
of their staff) from that region made even a token appearance. I've =
witnessed this same scene more than once and I'm happy to report that =
these communities are getting angrier.=20

The S.O.S. Medicare national conference recently held in Regina made =
housing an issue. That was significant. It recognized that with 300,000 =
Canadians homeless and 2.7 million people spending too much of their =
income to keep a roof over their head, we already have a two-tiered =
health-care program: people susceptible to tuberculosis living in =
shelters, street nurses delivering care in ravines or under a bridge; =
people sickened by living in stifling rooming houses without windows =
that open; people facing hunger by the third week of each month; people =
receiving palliative care in shelters or, worse yet, dying alone.=20

This is the reality, so what has been the political response? Federal =
and provincial politicians are raising their salaries, proposing tax =
cuts, breaking promises and blaming each other. We are still waiting for =
a national housing program. In this leadership void, George Bush's =
homelessness czar Philip Mangano is helping to dictate Canadian social =
policy, and it is not pretty.=20

Where are our great Canadian politicians? Housing needs a Tommy Douglas.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------=
-------

Cathy Crowe is a street nurse in Toronto and current recipient of the =
Atkinson Charitable Foundation's Economic Justice Award. Her book Dying =
for a Home: Homeless Activists Speak Out (Between the Lines, 2007) was =
released this spring.















William Charles Tinker=20
New Hampshire Homeless=20
Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street=20
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA=20
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.=20
1-603-286-2492=20
http://www.missingkids.com=20
http://www.nationalhomeless.org=20
http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org=20
newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com=20


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<DIV><SPAN class=3DheadlineArticle></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><SPAN class=3DheadlineArticle>The message is simple: People deserve =

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<P><SPAN style=3D"TEXT-TRANSFORM: capitalize">Jul 16, =
2007&nbsp;</SPAN></P></DIV>
<DIV><!-- AUTHOR 1 --><SPAN class=3DarticleAuthor=20
id=3Dctl00_ContentPlaceHolder_article_NavWebPart_Article_ctl00___Author1_=
_>Cathy=20
Crowe</SPAN> <BR></DIV><!-- ARTICLE CONTENT-->
<P>I am a street nurse in Toronto, but over the past three years I have =
visited=20
more than two dozen Canadian communities facing an equally severe =
housing=20
crisis. </P>
<P>These communities invited me to examine their homeless situation and =
suggest=20
strategies to make their political leaders listen up. I toured shelters, =

drop-ins, soup kitchens, food banks and outreach programs. I met with =
front-line=20
workers and heard directly from homeless people. I met with charitable=20
foundations, faith groups, university leaders and public health experts. =
</P>
<P>In each community I took pictures of their wartime housing and asked =
to see=20
their affordable housing units built in the '70s and '80s. Sadly, there =
were=20
very few affordable housing units built in the last 15 years for me to =
tour.=20
</P>
<P>Why? Because our federal housing program (yes, we once had one!) was=20
destroyed in 1993. Imagine if that happened to medicare. Since the =
demise of our=20
housing program there have been only piecemeal, sparsely funded and =
minimalist=20
programs.</P>
<P>Take Northern Ontario, for example, where the meagre mix of=20
federal-provincial housing dollars doesn't allow new affordable housing =
units to=20
be built. Instead, the money can be used only for renovations or =
retrofits =96=20
despite a 1 per cent vacancy rate in communities like Sault Ste. Marie. =
</P>
<P>The result? Families are living in untenable, mould-filled houses in =
the=20
countryside, in tents, trailer parks or relying on "Greyhound therapy" =
=96 they=20
leave town by bus for another community that might have a shelter.</P>
<P>There is no question that circumstances today, compared with 1998, =
when=20
hundreds of organizations declared homelessness a national disaster, are =
more=20
catastrophic. Homelessness is our Katrina, but it wasn't caused by the =
weather.=20
Perhaps because the problem is now so visible, some unexpected groups of =
people=20
are demonstrating political literacy. They get it.</P>
<P>Take the Grade 4 students in Toronto who made cards for homeless =
people on=20
National Housing Day. The crayoned images showed homes, happiness, food, =
friends=20
and family. Their messages emphasized home, "I hope you will have a home =
again=20
some day soon." </P>
<P>Simple, right? The messages went beyond fear, beyond blame, right to =
the=20
point =96 people deserve housing. Their common sense challenges the =
usual class=20
assignment of collecting socks and hygiene products for "the =
homeless."</P>
<P>Then there is the Ontario Chamber of Commerce which, recognizing the=20
importance of long-term and sustained funding for the province's social =
housing=20
stock (co-op, non-profit and public housing), recently passed a series =
of=20
motions calling for more affordable housing, and that full =
responsibility for=20
social housing be uploaded back to the province. </P>
<P>Community leaders in the cities I have visited realize that it is =
negligent,=20
and harmful to children's health, that their community has not responded =
to=20
growing family homelessness by opening designated family shelters. They =
all know=20
the facts: the number of years a family must wait on the housing list, =
the low=20
vacancy rates and the negative impact of moving a family into an =
isolated motel=20
away from the downtown core and support services, or forcing families to =
sleep=20
in church basements. </P>
<P>These community leaders are now angry that families and children are =
being=20
used as pawns in the negligent fiscal fight between federal and =
provincial=20
governments. A growing number of people are starting to ask: "Where's =
the=20
housing?" </P>
<P>Community organizations in Thunder Bay held a day-long forum on =
housing that=20
had standing-room-only attendance. Despite invitations from the =
organizers, not=20
one federal, provincial or municipal politician (nor any of their staff) =
from=20
that region made even a token appearance. I've witnessed this same scene =
more=20
than once and I'm happy to report that these communities are getting =
angrier.=20
</P>
<P>The S.O.S. Medicare national conference recently held in Regina made =
housing=20
an issue. That was significant. It recognized that with 300,000 =
Canadians=20
homeless and 2.7 million people spending too much of their income to =
keep a roof=20
over their head, we already have a two-tiered health-care program: =
people=20
susceptible to tuberculosis living in shelters, street nurses delivering =
care in=20
ravines or under a bridge; people sickened by living in stifling rooming =
houses=20
without windows that open; people facing hunger by the third week of =
each month;=20
people receiving palliative care in shelters or, worse yet, dying alone. =
</P>
<P>This is the reality, so what has been the political response? Federal =
and=20
provincial politicians are raising their salaries, proposing tax cuts, =
breaking=20
promises and blaming each other. We are still waiting for a national =
housing=20
program. In this leadership void, George Bush's homelessness czar Philip =
Mangano=20
is helping to dictate Canadian social policy, and it is not pretty. </P>
<P>Where are our great Canadian politicians? Housing needs a Tommy =
Douglas.</P>
<P>
<DIV>
<HR width=3D"90%">
</DIV>
<DIV><I>Cathy Crowe is a street nurse in Toronto and current recipient =
of the=20
Atkinson Charitable Foundation's Economic Justice Award. Her book =
<I>Dying for a=20
Home: Homeless Activists Speak Out </I>(Between the Lines, 2007) was =
released=20
this spring.</I></DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
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<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><EM></EM>&nbsp;</DIV></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>William Charles Tinker <BR>New =
Hampshire Homeless=20
<BR>Founded 11-28-99<BR>25 Granite Street <BR>Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 =
USA=20
<BR>Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights. =
<BR>1-603-286-2492=20
<BR><A =
href=3D"http://www.missingkids.com">http://www.missingkids.com</A> =
<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.nationalhomeless.org">http://www.nationalhomeless.org<=
/A>=20
<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org">http://www.newhampshirehomel=
ess.org</A>=20
<BR><A=20
href=3D"mailto:newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com">newhampshirehom=
eless-subscribe@topica.com</A>=20
</FONT></DIV>
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