Monday, January 24, 2011

Extremely Cold Attitudes (Toward Homeless)

It's -27 celcius today, and snowing. Many of my client's find it difficult to get out of the house much at this time of year. I find myself less and less enthused about bundling up to get in the car and head out to see them.

My thoughts mostly are with the group I used to work with - the homeless and underhoused. An extreme cold weather alert has been called, but we know that some will still be outside.

An older gentleman that I support was distraught last year after his brother died on the steets of Calgary. He was found in a snowbank.

At least that city seems to have a plan in place to address the issue of homelessness, a plan that seems to be making progress.

Calgary's 10 Year Plan seems to be simple and straightforward. First, create permenant affordable housing for individuals and families. Provide support for mental health and addictions. Recognize the systemic issues that create homelessness, and acknowledge the economic toll that it takes on a community. It's great to see such an honest discussion of the problem occuring at a civic level. Several cities in the U.S. have similar plans and report largely positive changes so far.

I only wish that this was a conversation that City Hall in Toronto would have ears for. Instead, we have new Mayor Rob Ford's recent suggestion that social workers should be made security guards of the steets and force homeless people into shelters during extreme cold. Mayor Ford made no comments regarding plans for these folks once the weather warms (to greater than -15). As a city councillor, Ford made his feelings on the matter quite clear stating "People do not want government housing built in the city of Toronto. They want roads fixed, more police presence, but they don't want more government housing that will depreciate the value of their property."
He also cried that it would be "an insult" to his constituents to even discuss having a homeless shelter built in his ward.

So I guess it's up to us - front line agencies, community activists, and the people who need the housing around here to keep up the fight. To find the allies we undoubtedly have in city hall and elsewhere. Not that that is anything new.

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