rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Federal government cuts investments in affordable housing

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

It started in 1998 when they declared homelessness a national disaster. But last week, after 14 years of advocacy, activism and action, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) finally closed its doors.

An unlikely collection of people that included a lawyer, a formerly homeless man and a Bay Street investment manager first met in the spring of 1998 to address the growing problem of homelessness in Toronto and the rest of the country.

“Many of the services that we won exist today,” said Beric German, a founding member of TDRC, at Tuesday’s monthly homeless memorial vigil outside the Church of the Holy Trinity.

“And we can be thankful for that.”

German reminded those attending today’s memorial vigil that many organizations will continue the fight to end homelessness.

But that won’t be an easy task, especially as the City continues to close much needed shelter beds.

When Bob Rose started working in Toronto, there were only a few drop-in centres. Those places where people gather who are trying to survive on the streets.

Now there are many.

He never imagined, 14 years later, that he would be standing beside a homeless memorial with over 600 names of men and women who’ve died on the streets of Toronto since 1985.

After the memorial, a group was planning to go to City Hall to stand in witness to the unending homelessness problem plaguing Toronto.

“That’s what we used to do in the early days after every death,” said Rose, another TDRC member. “And then there were so many deaths that we couldn’t keep going. So we came here.”

Even though no names were added to the memorial this month, there are still at least 5,000 people in Toronto who don’t have housing.

“I’m sure there have been people who died last month,” said Greg Cook, one of the homeless memorial organizers. “We just haven’t been able to collect the names.”

As the rental housing crisis continues to worsen, the number of names on the memorial will continue to climb.

At the same time, the federal government remains committed to cutting its investments in affordable housing over the next four years.

In 2010, the Conservatives spent a little over $3 billion dollars. But by 2016, that amount will be down to $1.7 billion dollars.

The National Affordable Housing Initiative, a program to build new homes across Canada, will be terminated. 

And the National Homelessness Program, a program that provides a small amount of funding to organizations that provide transitional housing, food programs and medical clinics, will also come to an end in 2014.

“So it’s more important than ever that we raise our voices,” said housing activist and former TDRC member Michael Shapcott.

“That we expect our federal government to meet the housing needs of Canadians.”

In the meantime, many homeless will rely even more on the Out of the Cold Program, a volunteer initiative that consists of congregations from faith groups, community members and advocates who provide safe refuge, hospitality and emergency shelter to the homeless community, that celebrated its 25th anniversary in January.

“The mystery, as we all know it, is that they (homeless people) show us what real love and compassion is,” said Sister Susan, a co-founder of the Out of the Cold Program.

“So this day is dedicated to those throughout the world who do not have enough to eat, that do not have enough shelter, that are cast aside.”

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.