It’s almost Election Day. And tent city remains. It is a stark reminder that housing is a huge issue across the territory.
What a positive thing that every party has been talking about the crisis, whether that be in the area of emergency shelters, housing with long-term supports, transitional housing, rental accommodation or affordable home ownership.
The question remains: Who has the best plan? And another, perhaps more important question: Who will provide the necessary leadership and energy to take on this and other issues that reflect and contribute to huge inequalities within our communities?
Before the writ was dropped, we asked to meet with all four parties to discuss the issues the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition has been working on, from housing and homelessness, to mental health and addictions, to the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy, to income inequality and insecurity.
The meetings were productive - all parties, except the Yukon Party, participated.
We also hosted Seeing for Yourself tours to help newly nominated candidates from all parties to better understand the services and challenges that local agencies face when trying to meet the needs of their clients.
A number of candidates representing all parties participated. Thanks to the Outreach Van, Salvation Army, Second Opinion Society, Blood Ties Four Directions, Skookum Jim Friendship Centre and the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society for opening their doors.
At the “Let’s Talk ... A Community Conversation about Poverty” event on September 13, we were pleased to welcome a variety of candidates and members of the public to an evening of sharing ideas, stories and hopes for the future.
One message that was loud and clear from participants is that now is the time to act.
The desperate search for healthy and safe housing was evident, as was the frustration of those on social assistance and the feeling that income security programs are only keeping people in poverty, rather than alleviating it. There was, also, hope expressed and numerous good ideas about solving the immediate housing crisis this winter. There was a strong sense that we all have to use the information we have and get to work. Appropriate housing stock and respectful services for those most in need must be a priority.
Another issue that was front and centre was how to enfranchise those who feel little involvement or hope in the system we have. The one big message was - get out and vote! If you need help to get to your polling station, call a friend or the candidate you plan to vote for. You can also call 334-9317 on voting day if you need help to get to the polls.
We have been heartened by the recognition of all parties that housing is a huge issue. We appreciate the commitments made with regards to the development of a mental health plan and a focus on addictions. We believe that the recommendations of the Allen/Beaton report on Intoxicated Persons at Risk need to be accepted in full.
Members of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition believe that with leadership on all these issues, Yukon will be a healthier and more inclusive community that will allow us all to live more healthy and equal lives.
When the election is over, we’ll get to work with whoever has been elected to ensure that poverty, homelessness, mental health and addictions, food security and income inequality are a priority for the territorial government.
And we will be here to hold that government accountable to the many commitments that have been made over the last month.
This column provided by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. Kristina Craig is the coalition’s co-ordinator.