Homelessness in Whitehorse is part of a growing national problem, according to a recent Sheldun Chumir report.
The scathing 97-page document rebukes Canada for a decade of inaction on homelessness, calling it the “largest homelessness crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
While both the US and the United Kingdom have launched major homelessness initiatives in recent years, Canada continues to lag behind, neglecting “core issues like poverty, urban development and housing security,” states the report.
In May 2006, Ottawa’s failure to address the growing crisis was criticized by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The committee urged Canada to “address homelessness and inadequate housing as a national emergency.”
The homeless demographic is changing, according to the report.
“Poverty has become a leading cause of homelessness, trumping substance abuse and mental illness, with some cities estimating as many as half of their street homeless population have jobs.”
“Canada’s 21st century homelessness epidemic is easily understood: many are simply working people and families who need affordable shelter,” said the report.
“Consequently, high-cost emergency resources are often wasted on many homeless people who don’t require extensive supervision or support.”
Based on a Canada-wide homeless population of 150,000 people, it’s estimated homelessness costs Canadian taxpayers $4.5 to $6 billion annually.
But it’s not money well spent, according to the report.
In Toronto, taxpayers pay 2.5 times more for homeless shelters than for rent supplements, says the report. But what’s needed are rent supplements, affordable housing and poverty mitigation programs, it says.
Poverty, affordability challenges and reduced government support has increased and diversified Canada’s homeless population.
One in seven emergency shelter users are children, and almost one-third of Canada’s homeless are youth, ages 16 to 24.
“This means Canada’s ‘new homeless’ — youth, new Canadians, the working poor, seniors and low-income families — are under-housed for surprisingly similar reasons.
“Addressing homelessness in the 21st century inevitably means anti-poverty strategies, affordable and alternative housing solutions as well as other preventative measures to address specific at-risk populations in specific circumstances (such as northerners, single parents, aboriginal people).”
The report looked at case studies in Iqaluit, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto, as well as touching on homelessness in the territorial North.
To read the report go to http://www.troymedia.com/Reports/Homelessness_in_a_growth_economyEMB.pdf.