We can end homelessness in Canada

In a country as rich and resourceful as Canada no one should be left without a roof over their head, but that is exactly what is happening in far too many of our communities and the Situation is only getting worse.  With an estimated 350,000 Canadians living homeless, the problem has reached crisis levels and the impacts of homelessness reverberate right through society, costing our country in a number of ways.  While activists hope that money for housing will be a part of the coming federal budget, New Democrats are bringing a motion to parliament that could result in a national plan to end homelessness. 

The NDP plan brings together communities, municipalities, provinces, First Nations, Indigenous and Metis governments, as well as activists to work with MPs on the problem.  They would take part in a special parliamentary committee designed to collect evidence and draft a plan for ending homelessness in Canada.  This would be in addition to the government’s national housing strategy which doesn’t fully address the severity of the situation and puts off any work until after the next election. The government strategy is also contingent on buy-in from the provinces and territories to the tune of $2 billion, without which, no federal money will flow.

But delays only cost us. Housing and income security are two of the most important social determinants of health and inequality drives up the costs of social assistance, medical care, education, and even incarceration as more people fall below the poverty line.  That’s why any conversation about homelessness must include those who can barely afford to keep a roof over their heads.  By paying attention to those at risk, we can develop a plan that will curb the growing number of homeless and use our public funds in a more proactive way.

We already know that social housing is one area that can help.  With one in four renters paying more than 30% of their income on housing, there is room for a strong federal commitment on this front.  It’s an investment that makes sense since the cost of building social housing units is much lower than the cost of leaving people to live on the streets, in shelters, in jail, and paying for repeat emergency room visits. 

If parliament backs the New Democrat plan, the special committee will define and recommend the best role for federal leadership that will support local efforts in the most effective ways possible. Canadian municipalities are already world-leaders in ending homelessness and we need to bring these stakeholders together to share their models for success.

Canada is in crisis now and we need an immediate solution that addresses our needs.  With some determination and hard work we can start the process that will end homelessness in Canada.  The NDP plan provides a roadmap for action. A special committee will learn the depth and scope of the problem so we can plan for the future based on measurable goals that will lead to success. The alternative is unacceptable and left unchecked, homelessness is only growing.  It’s time we start doing the heavy lifting so that Canada’s most vulnerable can have a safe place to call home.