Homelessness Is Not Just A "Big City" Thing
The Problem Is Real
Homelessness Is Everywhere
"The kids and I are on the streets."
This, from someone I taught nearly a decade ago. Eight simple words, and they caused my heart to sink.
Although I'm in my mid-40s, there's always been a part of me that hasn't fully appreciated how rampant the homelessness issue is anywhere in Canada. I've been ridiculously fortunate; while I do carry debt, like many North Americans, I've never been in any sort of a situation - thankfully - where I've had to cope with the loss of my home. I've never had to worry about feeding my children, and I've never had to wonder if I've got enough money for rent.
I've never had to wonder when - or if - I'd be able to put a roof over my kids' heads, or how in God's name I'd try and keep things normal for my kids even though I didn't even know where they'd sleep.
To be sure, affordable housing is a significant issue for many people. According to CTV, Barrie is one of the most expensive places in Canada to rent a one bedroom apartment - the average rent hovers around $1,100. RentBoard lists the average house rental price for a 2-bedroom house at around $1,700. When you consider the current minimum wage is $14, if you work 40 hours a week - and this doesn't even consider the taxes that come off of every pay - that's $560/week, or just over $2200 monthly. That, in turn, means that you're left with around $500 to cover groceries and whatever other expenses you might have, which means it's probably fairly impossible to even rent a house on a minimum wage.
Unfortunately, many homeless shelters generally boast no more than a few dozen beds, and many are not designed for people to stay at them longer than 30 to 90 days. While these homeless shelters do vie for government grants, these are not-for-profit organizations designed to help those who are less fortunate. In addition, according to a 2017 CBC report, there have been shelter closures due to a lack of funding and the shelters that are still in operation are generally functioning at around 90 percent capacity, which is frightening. Because of the limited time that people can actually stay in a shelter, sometimes people have little choice but to return to the streets, trying to figure out what their next move will be.
We don't live in a world where problems are solved in 48 minutes or less. It would be nice if that was the case, as we would be able to solve issues like homelessness far more quickly than we could ever hope for. However, we live in a world that is far from perfect, and there is a stigma that comes with homelessness that leaves little consideration for a person's actual situation.
How many times do we consider a homeless person and think they were the ones who brought their homelessness on themselves as a result of bad choices? Sure, there are those individuals who struggle with addiction and that may leave them homeless one day, but what of the person who has lost their job and before too long is unable to make rent? We live in a world now where it's getting increasingly more difficult to make ends meet, let alone set money aside for things like cars, college, or even emergencies.
Homelessness is real, and many of these homeless shelters are running as fast as they can to support an increasingly needy population. There is an affordable housing crisis where people who are working full time in what would be considered "good jobs" are struggling to find a decent place to live in a decent neighborhood in order to potentially raise a family or even just feel safe themselves.
While much has been made over some big-city treatment of their own unique homelessness challenges - think of reports from CBC of cities like Vancouver trying to push out homeless people just prior to the 2010 Olympics - the bottom line is, homelessness is a significant issue which is not just going away. Funding is essential in order to help these individuals back on their feet, and that funding should be driven into affordable housing and homeless shelters.
Being homeless isn't a choice, and people need our help.