More money to fight homelessness
By Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca
I remember when I arrived in Canada more than thirty-eight years ago that one of the things that surprised me the most was the fact that there were no beggars on the streets. No such expression of the extreme poverty that one associated then with the daily reality of Third World countries. Canada was after all, a developed country. There were poor people of course, but a combination of government agencies and the actions taken by the provinces and municipalities tried—and at the time it seemed that successfully—to cushion the more malign effects that such condition would bring to the people affected by poverty. The safety net as it was known.
“Poverty is an ignominy” said Charlie Chaplin, a man who knew because in his childhood he had lived in abject poverty in London. Extreme poverty, that in which one loses everything including one’s own humanity, is one of the worst things a person may experience, and that is the case of those who become homeless.
This past Sunday Lucie Charlebois, the Quebec Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection and Public Health, announced an increase in the budget to fight homelessness. The provincial government will spend an extra $4.6 million, bringing the total budget for the government’s 2015-2020 homelessness action plan to $12.7 million.
This is good news for the organizations that help the homeless but according to some community groups like FRAPU it is still insufficient, since it is likely that the number of homeless people increase in the absence of a comprehensive policy of social housing.
For its part the City of Montreal is also taking some measures to help the homeless especially during these months of winter, working in conjunction with organizations such as the Old Brewery Mission, Mission Bon Accueil, Maison du Pére, L’abri d’espoir and others that provide shelter to homeless people. This time the STM is also involved displaying inspectors at the time when metro stations close taking those who tend to hang out at those stations to the Bonaventure station from where they are sent to different shelters. As is well known, many homeless people are sleeping in the stations during the day, Guy-Concordia is probably one of the most crowded, creating a problem for passengers and certainly becoming a sanitary issue as well, worst of all, it is certainly undignified for a human being to be sleeping in such conditions.
Canada didn’t have people living in such miserable conditions but that was then, a distant time from this present dominated by economic policies that have sent hundreds of mental patients on the streets, that are making many people fall through the system with no assistance at all, and with more cuts to social programs still to come. Dealing with homelessness is fine especially if some money is thrown into the problem. But the reasonable thing would have been to deal with the causes of this terrible problem, to prevent its occurrence.