Despite sporadic success in addressing homelessness in Canada, very little progress has been made toward a permanent cross-country solution, says a national report into the extent of the problem. The report’s initial numbers tell a grim story. Among the report’s findings:
- At least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year.
- At least 150,000 Canadians a year use a homeless shelter at some point.
- At least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night.
- At least 50,000 Canadians are part of the “hidden homeless” on any given night — staying with friends or relatives on a temporary basis as they have nowhere else to go.
The above numbers come from the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, two groups behind what is known as the first extensive national report card on homelessness.
They found that annual shelter use did not change substantially from 2005 to 2009, while the average stay grew longer. As a result, the authors of the report say, it’s time the country changed its focus from crisis management to more permanent viable solutions.
We miss the boat when we think that warehousing people in church basements is a working method of handling the homeless. How is this going to get people back on their feet and off the streets? Where are the programs designed to help them find jobs, housing, or go to school to learn skills they can use to become self sufficient?
Most people dismiss the homeless as people who don’t want to do anything for themselves. City Mayors see them as a nuisance, a blight on their otherwise clean and inviting city, and will have law enforcement move them along when ever they see them. But is that a viable solution for the homeless problem?
Of course it isn’t! We as a society must strive to create programs that teach those without homes how to regain their place in society. Job training, is essential, but so are social programs that help these people to find their way back into working society.
Addressing the problem that made each of these individuals homeless in the first place goes a long way in determining how they can be helped to reverse the process. We have to stop treating the homeless like cattle and begin to evaluate them on a case by case basis. Assessing their individual needs goes a long way towards helping get them off the streets.
What I truly do not understand however, is the fact that in a country with so many people on government assistance we even have homeless people? Could it be that there are so many on welfare assistance that are playing the system that those who actually need the assistance can’t get it?
As par usual our governments are failing when it comes to the homeless. Tell me what YOU think? Do you have any ideas on how to lessen the homeless population? Please share them with us in the comment section!