No matter where you go, you are sure to come across homeless people littering the streets. Men or women, the young or the old, homelessness does not discriminate. The last recession and the difficulties of most industries to bounce back after the crisis led to massive layoffs and a rise in the country’s unemployment rate. People were asked to leave their homes because they can no longer pay their mortgage.
So, in a way, these people actually had no choice but to live on the streets since shelters can’t always accommodate them. Even now that the economy is gradually improving and business is starting to pick up, other industries are still closing down. Employees will lose their jobs and can no longer afford to pay their rent or their mortgage.
For instance, malls are closing down as people prefer to shop online. So, it is not surprising to see more homeless people in the community than before. The U.S. should follow Canada’s lead in their efforts to take care of the homeless, so they become productive members of society once more.
A task force of Metro Vancouver mayors and business leaders released 12 recommendations to combat homelessness in the region on Monday, again calling on the provincial and federal governments to create and fund a provincial poverty reduction plan.
The report focused on three goals: preventing people from becoming homeless, serving them if they become homeless, and helping them into housing.
“The research unequivocally demonstrates a complete system-wide failure in the social services network designed to assist the most vulnerable in the region,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, who helped lead the effort with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
The report recommended expanding home care for people with chronic health issues and addictions, and adding social housing units – key factors of homelessness, it said, that are outside local government jurisdiction.
Just how will they do that?
Coleman pointed to 1,900 units of affordable rental housing, including about 300 units for homeless people, that are in the works in the region.
Two shelter proposals were once on the table for Maple Ridge, Read noted, and both were later rescinded by the province, leading to some people staying in the local shelter for 18 months as they waited to move into transitional housing.
The Canadians clearly know what they are doing.
The Minister also participated in the official opening of a three-story building at 220 Terminal Avenue, hosted by the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency. The new building is the first project in Canada to be approved by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation under the Affordable Rental Innovation Fund, and features 40 single occupancy suites for people at risk of homelessness, students and seniors. The project also includes moveable modular units, which are set up on undeveloped, city-owned land to provide temporary housing when needed.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is among the first states in the country to initiate programs for the homeless population and has now been adopted by other U.S. states. It is not just a simple housing program but a more lasting solution by providing employment to the homeless so they can finally get themselves off the streets.
In 2015, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry made national headlines when he debuted a no-frills effort to reduce panhandling and homelessness in the city. With one driver and one 10-seater van, the program, called There’s a Better Way, would transport the city’s jobless to six-hour gigs pulling weeds in parks, picking up trash or tidying up the grounds at the local dump.
What started off as a $50,000, six-month pilot is now an $181,000 annual program that has inspired spin-offs in Denver, Dallas and the state of Wisconsin. Anaheim, California, became the most recent municipality to get on the trend, with Mayor Tom Tait telling an audience of 800 at the State of the City address on Feb. 7 that jobs were the solution to homelessness.
These stories deserve to make the news. They not only uplift the lives of homeless people and boost their morale but also encourages other communities, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to take the lead and help solve the problem of homelessness in their area.
Helping one another is not just a moral obligation among the faithful but a responsibility each and every citizen must take to heart. Progress is achieved once we all learn to look after one another with the help of a government that takes an active approach to solving many of the issues plaguing the community.