I enjoy exploring towns and cities and this year we spent a month in Paris and Strasbourg. Sadly, I always expect to see some level of homelessness. However, I wasn’t ready for the number of little encampments that I saw in France this year. Tents and cardboard shelters near the Louvre, in shopping arcades, just everywhere! So I have to write about homelessness, one more time.
When I first wrote on this subject Canada had:
Many of the 235,000 use a homeless shelter at least once during the year.
I wanted to know the impact that Covid-19 has had on the homeless situation at home. I spoke with James Hughes of Montreal’s Old Brewery Mission to hear what he has seen and experienced over the past couple of years.
The brutally cold temperatures of Winter 2021 / 2022 combined with the Omicron outbreak created a peculiar problem. Cold (more people needing shelter) versus COVID (more space needed per person). This required Old Brewery and the other shelters to continuously adapt to changing needs and to the competing limitations of infectious disease and frigid weather.
While Covid and weather tested the capacity of the shelter system in Montréal, these are temporal issues. Of much greater concern to Hughes:
So more people to house, less people to help!
The COVID-19 crisis helped authorities and the general population develop a much clearer understanding of homeless vulnerability. Also, Montréal shelters have always cooperated to serve the itinerant population. However, the level of collaboration between these organizations and various levels of government has increased over the past two years.
Could better understanding and awareness of the vulnerable homeless lead to Housing Rights legislation in Canada? Finland has enshrined the right to housing in its constitution. This has led to a reduction in its overall homeless population of about 17,000 in 1989 to about 4000 today. This versus Canada’s 235,000 homeless. Less than 1000 lived either outside, in temporary shelters, or in hostels.
How has Finland been so successful?
But probably not the last time. Solving homelessness is step one in solving the housing crisis.
It demands politicians who have an understanding of human dignity.Juha Kaakinen, architect of Finland’s Housing First program.
If you wish to donate to the Old Brewery Mission click here.
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