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CHARBONNEAU – Attitude adjustment would solve our homeless problem

Homeless camp under the Red Bridge. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS the homeless is a barrier to solving the problem. The old notion that the poor deserve to be so:  if people would just apply themselves, they wouldn’t be homeless.

Finland’s experience shows how a shift in attitude makes a difference.

In 1987, Finland had a homeless population of about 20,000 out of a population of five million – a rate of four homeless per thousand.

To address the problem, Finland adopted a “Housing First” philosophy, said Juha Kaakinen (Globe and Mail, Aug. 13, 2021).

Kaakinen, chief executive officer of Finland’s non-profit Y-Foundation, was addressing a panel convened by The Canadian Urban Institute.

Another panelist, Leilani Farha, said that part of Finland’s success is the result of a shift in mindset. For Finns, homelessness is not an option.

“People have a right to housing as part of their constitution.” said Farha,

Finland solved the problem with a partnership between federal and state governments, lottery corporations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Y-Foundation, a non-profit organization, started buying private apartments in 1985 with grants obtained from the government-run Finland Slot Machine Association.

In turn, the Y-Foundation subleased the apartments out to municipalities and NGOs. The rent plus the grants paid for the apartments.

Finland’s homeless rate is now one-fifth of what it was.

It’s tempting to think of housing the homeless as an expense when, in fact, it’s savings. Housing for everyone has proven to be the most effective remedy for improving lives and saving money.

A study published by Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 found that costs to Seattle’s public health system dropped by 60 per cent in the first six months after chronically homeless people with severe alcoholism were found homes.

Canada is not beyond hope. Our homeless rate is just above what Finland’s was in 1987 – about six homeless per thousand.

All levels of government are working on the problem.

The City of Kamloops’ Affordable Housing Reserve Fund allows for up to $150,000 per project for low income earners.

The B.C. government built 3,200 new affordable housing units last year and more are being built this year. (Full disclosure: I am the president of a non-profit organization that will take possession of the largest project in the Interior built by BC Housing, opening in downtown Kamloops this fall.)

The federal government is working with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to build affordable housing. This year’s federal budget provides an additional $2.5 billion over seven years to CMHC.

Dignity and financial security are restored when the homeless are given homes.

Tina Dawson, 52, from Victoria, told the Institute’s panel about being homeless for the first time in the past year:

“Being newly homeless, I am gob-smacked at the way things are out of sight, out-of-mind, and the machine that is in place to keep people homeless. How on earth am I going to get out of this position? I’ve managed my entire life. I’ve raised three children. And I have no address. The problem is [putting together] the damage deposit. I’m on permanent disability. That’s hand to mouth.”

Those who work full-time at minimum wage jobs should be able to afford a place to live.

Surely, that’s not too much of an adjustment in attitude to make.

David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at http://www.eyeviewkamloops.wordpress.com.

About Mel Rothenburger (8416 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on CHARBONNEAU – Attitude adjustment would solve our homeless problem

  1. Tony Brumell // August 19, 2021 at 3:51 PM // Reply

    misplaced compassion doesn’t solve anything. Education and incentive can but only if the recipient is willing to live by the rules of the society they are in. Throwing money at the problem and the ” catch and release system sends the wrong message to all.

  2. R Marcus Lowe // August 19, 2021 at 8:57 AM // Reply

    Correct. My own father argues that poor and homeless deserve their lot in life. I point out rich people and corporations often do not pay taxes. He says that is because they run their lives so much better. Attitude.

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