Fwd: Canada: roots of homelessness

Manfred Theis (manfredtheis@hotmail.com)
Wed, 18 Nov 1998 08:49:11 PST


--------- Forwarded Message ---------

DATE: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 13:03:00
From: World Homeless Union <worldhomeless@hotmail.com>
To: AHS-L@AMERICAN.EDU

Monday 16 November 1998

Homeless in Canada

The Gazette

Homelessness has distressingly simple roots:
alcoholism, mental illness, the need to escape an
abusive parent or partner, housing that no poor
person can afford.

Across the country, an estimated 200,000 Canadians
are homeless. In cities like Toronto, front-line
workers say there has been a steep rise in the
number of infections, cases of malnutrition and
death rates among the homeless.

Toronto city council has taken the unusual step of
declaring homelessness a "national disaster" and
voting to demand the provincial and federal
governments do the same. In Toronto, an existing
4,200 emergency beds are full, with as many as
another 500 people forced to sleep outdoors.
Treating homelessness seriously would certainly be
an improvement over the years that Canada's
largest cities spent in denial.

When the problem of homelessness became too
visible to ignore, cities erected emergency
shelters, food banks, soup kitchens - short-term
measures that have never adequately met the needs
of the homeless.

Solutions to the problem will only be found in its
root causes - the lack of support for mental
patients, the too-few alcohol and
drug-rehabilitation programs and the shortage of
affordable housing. In Montreal, whose homeless
number 6,000, 41 per cent of the population falls
below Revenue Canada's low-income cut-off
measures.

True, the homeless need employment skills and jobs
before they can be expected to pay rent. Even so,
the city needs about 2,500 new subsidized-housing
units a year to keep up with the demand. Mayor
Pierre Bourque has promised to create 500 a year.

It is unfair to leave Montreal alone to deal with
this problem. Poor people from across the province
pour into Quebec's largest city, looking for work
or welfare. Quebec currently creates about 1,500
subsidized housing units a year, not even enough
to meet the demand in Montreal. Toronto is not
much better off. It needs as many as 4,000 new
units of social housing a year.

The federal government is now considering creating
a cabinet committee to co-ordinate the battle
against homelessness. But it's time to move beyond
planning and put some money on the table. =A91998

The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.


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