Newsletter No. 33
I've been a street nurse in Toronto for 18 years. In the spring of 2004 I received the Atkinson Economic Justice Award which permits me to pursue, for up to three years, my passions for nursing and working on homelessness and housing issues. In this newsletter I hope to report on my activities, create a link to a broader group of individuals who care about these social issues and encourage critical debate.
photo: Brandon Teed
Further information about subscribing to the newsletter is found below. I want to hear from you - about the newsletter, about things that are happening in the homelessness sector (what a sad term!), and about good things which will provide inspiration for all of us.
Signs of the time
Signs of the time
Signs of the time
Some Torontonians were
caught off guard this spring when a series of official looking signs started
to appear in downtown neighbourhoods.
A number of the signs concerned themselves with homelessness:
our streets clean, over 818 people have to sleep on them.”
warming grate. Please keep clear Oct. – May.”
people die every week in
Mark Daye, a 4th year
graphic design student at the Ontario College of Arts and Design (OCAD)
“Instead of rebranding a product or service for my
4th year thesis project I chose to represent a local population that usually
gets overlooked. I re-coded
official signage and affixed 30 of them to poles in the downtown core with
messages pertaining to an obvious but ignored urban sub culture. The
goal was not only to catch people off guard by creating signs that
acknowledge the homeless population on a seemingly official level, but to
get people to think about codes of behaviour, conformity, acceptance and to
maybe spare some consideration for the homeless who live mostly ignored in
the city, blending into the background just like the signs.”
Not surprisingly, the signs were quickly removed by City workers.
Check out the images and the ensuing discussion on Spacing: http://spacing.ca/wire/?p=1723
photo by Brandon
Counting people as if people count
Exactly one year ago in my April 2006 newsletter I wrote an article called
the homeless – 67,041 reasons not to’.
I argued that we had enough data
that quantified homelessness in
quantifying the extent of a problem is useful only when
it exposes or documents a situation to confront
its causes and propose solutions.
In addition, research of this nature is most helpful if it is done in
a way that captures the imagination of the public.
Michael Shapcott is probably the most skilled person I know when it
comes to accomplishing these challenges.
In his paper titled ‘Fourteen cents a day won’t build many
homes’, prepared for the Ontario Alternative Budget, Michael
presents us with the facts: 600,000 Ontario households, or 1.7 million men,
women and children, or 15% of all Ontarians are in core housing need, 260
households per day faced eviction in Ontario in 2005, and among the groups
facing the heaviest housing burden are seniors with more than half of all
elderly women living alone in core housing need.
In the face of these facts, the
Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) and Cooperative Housing
Federation of Canada (CHF) report ‘Where’s Home? 2006: A Picture of
Housing Needs in
‘Where’s Home? 2006’ reminds us that only 5% of
Poor and homeless people have been counted many times
but do poor and homeless people really count?
For the most part no, not if you look at how our tax dollars are spent.
Although days of national protest and lobbying saved the federal program that funds services for homeless people, the December victory was isolated and tenuous. The federal government announced $270 million for a two-year extension of the federal homelessness program with a name change. Previously known as the Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative (nicknamed “skippy” by bureaucrats), the new program is called the Homelessness Partnership Initiative (and has been christened “hippie” by bureaucrats). In addition, the federal government announced $256 million for a two-year extension of the low-income housing rehab program, but community groups are reporting many problems with the new program and the flow of monies.
7 days in March perhaps best captures the will of policy makers and politicians. All three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, recently presented budgets that severely ignored the needs of homeless and low-income households.
the federal Conservative budget on March 19 – ZERO
new dollars to help solve the homelessness and housing crisis across the
country. Federal Finance
Minister Jim Flaherty's budget speech was entirely silent on homelessness
and the hundreds of pages of budget documents barely even mention housing,
except to repeat some previously announced spending.
There was minimal media or public
criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty’s
decision to disregard Canadian housing needs.
Second was the Ontario Liberal budget on March 22 – ZERO new dollars, only a re-announcement of $392 million previously allocated federal housing dollars; and a 2% increase in social assistance scheduled for November. Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Greg Sorbara essentially sentenced 122,426 households on the social housing waiting lists to more years of waiting.
the City of
* a $25 million
cut in spending for
* a 3.5% cut in homeless shelter beds, which means fewer beds available for people forced out on the streets.
* only 524 new affordable
units. A total of 863 affordable
housing units are on the 2007 target list, but 339 of those were on the 2006
list and were not developed, so the number of net new affordable homes is
barely above 500, well below the 1,000 target set by City Council.
Keep in mind that there continues to be well over 60,000 households
on the affordable housing waiting list here in
* $13.5 million
cut from public health programs
despite growing evidence that additional resources are needed for pandemic
planning, infection control and a climate change plan that will need an
adequate extreme heat response for vulnerable populations like our seniors
as well as people who are homeless.
Carol Goar in the Toronto Star recently reminded us that it is up to citizens, advocacy groups and lobbyists, to ensure that the policy and spending we want to see will actually happen. You know what to do!
Last week I caught myself yelling at the television
news. The number one story I was
watching on Global National was about the closing of the Brick Warehouse
The conclusion and the policies that suggest emergency shelter is only due to someone in winter is quite simply discriminatory.
I gather that local
The book I have worked on with homeless friends and
colleagues is done. You can read
more about the book at www.tdrc.net/dying_for_a_home.htm.
I hope this book will help you find ways to raise the issues and the
solutions with politicians and local leaders in your community.
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