Three people died from exposure in the city of Toronto during the winter of 1995. This led the Municipal Government to introduce some safeguards to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Fast forward to the first week of 2015 and yet again two people have died from exposure in a forty-eight hour period. Obviously the measures that the city enacted in 1996 have proved inadequate. Those measures include the opening of warming centers when the mercury drops below -15 C. What is not included in that formula is wind chill, length of exposure or whether people have adequate clothing. The people most in danger during extreme weather are the growing numbers of the city’s homeless.
Yes, I said it, the H word, Homeless. So who are the homeless? I’m sure you already have some preconceived notion of who these people are. You probably think they (the homeless) have mental health and/or addiction issues. You may be correct in your assumptions for a segment of the homeless demographic, but it is only one slice of the pie you are looking at and I would also argue in some cases that these issues developed as a result of homelessness as a coping mechanism.
But realize, a woman escaping an abusive relationship could find herself homeless, a child running away from physical, and or sexual abuse can also end up homeless, someone who has lost employment and had their Employment Insurance run out could very well find themselves on the street as the rate Welfare allocates a paltry $376 a month for housing. You can’t even find a room for that amount in this city and if you can it’s not one you would want to live in because you will have four and eight legged roommates by the thousands to keep you company.
Okay, to the point now. The problem is not how do we protect these vulnerable people during times of extreme weather. The problem is that there is Homelessness to begin with. We live in a rich country with plenty of land and resources and there just is no excuse for economic suffering. We waste Billions of dollars on frivolous things like the tens of millions spent in our Federal Government’s Economic Action Plan Ad Campaign. How far that money could have gone to housing the country’s homeless and feeding the country’s poor. These Economic Action Plan Ads really stick in my craw because it’s money essentially flushed down the toilet to tell us about programs that don’t exist when the News Media can do that same job free of cost to the government. That is what the Press Release is for. What purpose do these Action Plan Ads serve other than propaganda and lining the pockets of advertising companies that are across the border. That’s right, big fat cat advertisers in the United States get more government dollars than do the country’s impoverished.
One solution might be to require these condo developers to allocate a percentage of their units as low income housing. These company’s receive huge tax breaks and congest traffic with their projects and they don’t have any obligation other than to their stockholders. Gentrification of low income areas like Regent Park, Parkdale, among other areas is also a big reason why the ranks of homeless are growing in number, because there is no affordable housing being built to accommodate those displaced by Gentrification.
I know Politicians are going to say taxes will be raised if we tackle the issue of poverty because the money isn’t there for socialist programs. But homelessness costs more than programs that would remedy poverty. Costs associated with homelessness include staffed shelters, outreach workers, public health nurses, also healthcare as homeless people are usually not in a position to seek out preventative medicine and end up with conditions that are chronic and more costly to treat in advanced stages of an ailment. Just know, when Politicians begin their fear mongering that taxes are going to go up regardless. It is time to hold our politicians to task. It’s time Politicians start representing People and not the business interests they currently serve.
Think people, Toronto City Hall (Nathan Phillips Square) is currently undergoing a facelift that is going to cost taxpayers over $60 million and yet City Hall has been made a Park so that the homeless cannot camp out on the doorstep of the city. If there is one place the homeless should be able to camp out it should be City Hall. Sweeping the problem under the carpet isn’t going to make it go away; it’s just going to move down the street. In my opinion everyone who is Homeless should congregate en-mass on the steps of City Hall so the problem is visible and dealt with appropriately. Handing out fines to people who can’t afford to pay them doesn’t accomplish anything.
Realize that the Homeless are people to. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters. They are flesh and blood and deserve the same sympathy we display for a dog that has been abandoned or abused. Realize this, it’s our Humanity that makes us Human, without our Humanity we are just animals, or worst, monsters.
I believe kindness is in our DNA and has been suppressed by this dog eat dog ideology, but in nature Dogs do not eat Dogs, so the fact we use a term like dog eat dog only goes to show how unnatural such a philosophy is. It’s time we get back to what is in our nature. We are social creatures so why should our policies not reflect that. We are caring individuals, why do we let our government represent us in any other way. I spoke earlier of the plentiful resources this country can boast of, but it’s greatest resource is the people themselves. Almost ten percent of that resource is being wasted on Poverty.
T J Therien