March 20, 2009
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
Hunger Strike Day 6
Day 6 of my hunger strike is drawing to a close. Tomorrow is my last day and I’m really looking forward to my fast being over.
I have learned a lot this past week through my experiences, research, and particularly from the feedback that I am getting through the distribution of my letters to you. Most importantly, many other people have expressed to me their new understanding of homelessness and the social and economic costs.
The issue of homeless has been studied extensively and exhaustively and all information points to the fact that it is time that something be done.
According to a 2007 report by Gordon Laird at the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, homelessness is costing Canadian taxpayers $4.5 billion to $6 billion a year. This is more than our spending on international development or debt reduction.
A March 2008 report by representatives from the University of BC, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Calgary concluded that homeless in BC costs the government and taxpayers $644.3 million per year and that we could save money if that cash was instead spent directly on supported social housing. The study argues homelessness has been increasing since the 1980s because of rising inflation, rents and unemployment, along with a decline in social assistance and cutbacks in government housing programs, and that in BC alone we could save a net amount of $33 million per year if we properly funded housing and homeless.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has called for an evaluation of the potential return on investment through the ending of homelessness and called for a national long term strategy.
The Fraser Institute has stated that public policy hasn’t helped the homeless and said that it’s time to do something about it.
Governments, think tanks, community service agencies and citizens from across Canada and around the world, from the left of the political spectrum to the right, are in agreement that it’s long past time that something must be done.
If all three levels of government made housing and homelessness a priority we would not only feel better by eliminating the constant reminder of our failure as a society, but the government and taxpayer would save money. The research is conslusive; the solution is a no-brainer!
Our country can no longer afford to continue ignoring the depth and breadth of the growing homelessness crisis. It’s time that we stop studying and start acting. I hope that you will do the right thing and make it your government’s priority to act and end this travesty.
My fast might be over in one more day, but the 2010 Hunger Strike Relay is continuing. More people have signed up. My daily letters to you are nearing an end, however, my efforts to continue to work towards the end of homeless will continue.
cc. Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition
Jack Layton, Leader of the NDP
Libby Davies, MP
Premier Gordon Campbell
Jenny Kwan, MLA
James Moore, MPStockwell Day, MPMayor Gregor Robertson