Spring Talk #2 – What the Future Looks Like: Preventing and Ending Homelessness in Canada

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Dr Stephen Gaetz, Director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University and also President of the Homeless Hub, was speaker at the Academy’s second popular Spring Talk  on April 17th. He was introduced to us by Liz Guccione.

Dr Gaetz spoke passionately about the need for radical change in our thinking about homelessness in our society. Ever since the Mike Harris era, the situation has been getting worse. Investment in social housing and rental stock has plummeted, there have been countless cutbacks and the economy has stagnated. Too many people have been saddled with a crippling debt load.

He believes that our current emphasis on emergency response measures is not working. It is far more beneficial, and cost-effective, to house the person first and then help them to deal with their other problems. It costs $57,000 annually to maintain one adult shelter bed. This money could  be much better used. In his opinion and that of other homeless scholars, prevention is key. We need a plan to END homelessness.

The problem is greatest among young people, particularly those who were involved earlier with the  child protection agencies and then cut loose to fend for themselves. Many homeless people are also victims of homophobia or racial prejudice.

Studies currently underway in Hamilton and Medicine Hat indicate that better coordination of existing services is needed. All sectors of society should be involved, particularly in providing transitional support for those exiting prisons and other government-run systems. Support for families in crisis is essential to prevent more broken homes.

Dr Gaetz referred us for more information to videos produced by the Homeless Hub, especially https://vimeo.com/301938022 The Road map for the Prevention of Youth Homelessness.

Finally, Linda Tu offered our thanks to Dr Gaetz for his impassioned presentation and his answers to the many questions and comments from the audience that revealed the depth of our concern for this troubling issue.

submitted by Gillian Long