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Fresh view to tackle homelessness

By Sarah Schofield

Homelessness is an age-old problem in Canada. It may be one that requires a fresh solution. The issue hasn’t improved and can’t be expected to until the government takes more action

This homelessness issue has always been in the media in bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal. What are often put on the back-burner are smaller communities.

Last Friday downtown Belleville held an event to raise awareness and funding for the homeless called ‘Sleep Out..So Others Can Sleep In’. The efforts made on the part of the organizers, volunteers and participants are something to be commended. They are the people in the community who are taking the time and care to address and improve the lives affected by this issue.

But as a community we have to ask if this is enough? Are the right issues being addressed in the first place?

The government has to take a more active and assertive role if things are going to change.  The government of Canada currently has a program called The Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which is focused on 61 communities struggling with homelessness. An enormous amount of money— currently $134.8 million currently per year— has been committed to the program. Is the money going where it needs to go?

To truly stop homelessness, the government should be looking at what the factors are in someone’s life that led them to their situation. Stopping homelessness before it happens should be priority. We can’t attribute why someone becomes homeless to one factor alone. The more we look at our country, the more we see that the number of people living from paycheque to paycheque is increasing. The average Canadian is finding that it is harder than ever to save money. The current global economy as well as the losses in the job market has not helped at all.

Small towns are losing private, independent businesses while even larger cities like Windsor, Ont. are finding their populations dropping each year as jobs disappear.

And it’s not just middle-aged adults who are the main age group of the homeless like it was 50 years ago. The average age today of people living on the street is low to middle thirties.

While homelessness is a very real physical state, it is also a mental state. It’s not only a matter of having financial support from the government, but learning the skills to keep ahead before being found without shelter. It’s time for the Canadian government to step up to the plate and make a real difference.