The Beginning of the End of Homelessness

Roy Romanow and I just published this piece making the case that ending homelessness should be a top priority in the government’s promised National Housing Strategy.  Shortly after we put our thoughts on paper, two more homeless people died.   Tens of thousands of Canadians every day face the perils, loneliness and exclusion that come with homelessness. 

The moral case for ending homelessness is self-evident.  But there is also a strong economic case.  The costs of ignoring poverty and homelessness to our health and penal systems are enormous and far outweigh what we will need to invest to end homelessness.  The costs of excluding the homeless from opportunity and participation are incalculable. And over the last few years we have learned what works. We have the know how. What’s been missing is the political will. 

It’s always those most in need who are asked to wait. We must not allow the relentless focus on the middle class to obscure that poverty and homelessness diminish us all. 

Comments
10 Responses to “The Beginning of the End of Homelessness”
  1. Elinor Caplan says:

    I look forward to reading your paper! The ‘hard to house’ pose a special challenge! There are some who would make choices that we find hard to understand. Elinor

  2. Mark Hammer says:

    Of course, there will always be some for whom the generally effective strategies will not work. But failing to eliminate ALL of something, be it homelessness, domestic violence, gun crime, elder abuse, etc., is no excuse or justification for disinterest or hopelessness in reducing it.

    Like so many human initiatives, the sense of making progress is paramount in sustaining motivation. But also, like so many human iniiatives, those that have a sensible long-term payoff, but no discernible immediate one, tend to grind to a halt.

    So maybe what’s needed to engender the will and persistence required, beyond reports, is a regular “scoreboard”. Let’s say every 3 months, what homelessness has cost in dollars and lives get publicized, to keep it on the radar. Somebody will have to do the math, and provide sensible valid up-to-date estimates. But if it is to remain on the political radar, there needs to be a meter, ticking very loudly with big glowing digits.

    • himelfarb says:

      Probably so Mark, but the evidence that cities can virtually eliminate chronic homelessness is pretty impressive including here in Canada and more and more cities are signing on because they can’t afford not to. All that’s missing is senior level leadership. We have lived so long in an era of stunted political imagination and cynicism about collective enterprise that we have lost sight of how much can be achieved when we put our knowledge, will and resources to it.

  3. Beijing York says:

    Happy New Year, Alex! I look forward to reading the upcoming article. It’s a very important issue. I remember when homelessness started to rise in the late 80s-early 90s and many thought it was a temporary blip. Now we are so inured to its presence that few are bothered enough and think charity as a salve is the best we can do. CBC Radio has been running a story about a palliative care physician, Dr. Dosanji (sp?), who is taking care of homeless and sheltered (impermanent residences) people dealing with terminal illnesses.

    • himelfarb says:

      Hi BY and happy New Year. When those Davos – who believe they rule the world – are preoccupied with inequality, climate change and the rise of populism, it seems anything may be possible if we rise to the challenge.

  4. Robert White says:

    Given your position as Co-Chair, and your background working career in the federal government, I, for one, think you can likely garner significant success with these proposals, Dr. Himelfarb. First off, we are in a Hegelian Death Spiral with regard to the general economy in CANADA right now, and the Federal Government of CANADA needs to generate shovel ready stimulus programmes in order to levitate employment in the Commercial, & Residential Construction sectors given muted New Single Family Housing Starts across CANADA with the exception of some isolated spots like Fort McMurray. Every province needs this sort of make work stimulus in order to keep the bond markets levitated as well. With the advent of Secular Stagnation since the bear raid on Bear Stearns in March of 08 we have evidenced a clear trajectory of no growth in jobs, Disposable Income Gains, or Venture Capital Investment for Small Business, or the Commercial sector. The Chartered Banks would be receptive to formal Business Proposals, and long term loans at a reasonable Interest Rate if the Federal Government underwrites the deals & management. The Federal Government is also likely laying off individuals in some sectors that could be utilized for this type of initiative as well. Additionally, the incentive to create work of lasting value to communities is felt by all levels of government today, and at all levels of contemporary society.
    All stakeholders are likely to agree more today that there needs to be a concerted effort to solve this national conundrum of Chronic Homelessness in CANADA than we would have seen in previous years if we had sampled opinions empirically. All the traditional stakeholders within the bureaucracy of the private sector & the public sector are more likely to work together when a superordinate goal is as clear and concise for all as an end to chronic homelessness, & structurally systemic homelessness, as most Systems Analysts might articulate it when the prime causal determinant of homelessness is likely funding. The whole proposal looks to be fairly simple in scope, as well, which lends well to garner support from opposition parties to government. The least complicated proposals that give us all the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck is indeed a fiscally prudent way to proceed in wrapping up a solution to one of our worst cases of mismanagement that we have evidenced in our lifetimes in contemporary Canadian society. Furthermore, as a Progressive Conservative I, for one, have been well aware that the cost of sheltering all in society, and feeding all in society, is reduced with more sound management on the part of all stakeholders so I can honestly say that I would back this proposal for the Liberal Government without partisanship on my part. I am sure that most Progressive Conservatives would agree with the proposal as well, and I know the New Democratic Party would not object either.

    Thanks for working on it, and keep us all informed via the blog with regard to updates.

    Robert

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