May 4, 2010
Today, I read a decade old article about homelessness in Canada. It is surprising just how similar it is to what we are hearing/reading today. More poor people + less affordable housing = more homeless….. Well, duh! What was interesting is that the demographic breakdown supports my personal findings, “1/3 addicts, 20-35% mental health” don’t look at me, that is a quote. Personally I would opt for percentages or fractions. I have found the demographics differ from province to province (even city to city) based on the housing priorities of particular governments. Over all, my travels thus far confirm the Calgary demographic of 50% poverty… 30% street people … 20% medicals. These numbers are observational, hard statistics are being gathered all the time by agencies and academics, and should be accessible, if that is your interest. What is not addressed in the article is the "WHY?".
WHY are there more poor people? WHY is there less affordable housing? If you know anywhere these questions have been addressed please feel free to let me know. In all honesty anything I tell you about these questions is only an educated guess, based on having lived through the past 3 decades and witnessing the changes firsthand.
Much of this is covered in my essay, “A Brief History of Economics”. Housing went from being a family home to being a commodity; bought, sold and traded to create personal wealth for the middle-class. While incomes increased slowly (100% over 30 years) real estate sky rocketed (1600% over 30 years), this increases the cost of everything. Every business sits on land and those increased cost need to be recouped so the price of products and services are increase. That is why we have fewer affordable housing units available.
One of the predominant reasons for more poverty is the high cost of housing. Strange how our quest for increased wealth as individuals has in fact created increased poverty. There are other factors which increased shelter populations. Less job security…. Later marriage…. Increased drug abuse and availability… Fewer mental health institutions… Lack of supportive housing… Closing of convalesant hospitals… I’m even willing to blame pop-psychology, but that’s another blog.
As for the problem of homelessness it is time we stop looking for reasons and started dealing with the here and now. Affordable housing will take the economic homeless out of the shelters and free up resources for those with real and complex needs. Research is all well and good, but there is a time for action and that time is NOW. It’s time to put down the pens and pick up hammers. Habitat for Humanity is planning 1.3 million affordable housing units for Canada…. Find out how you can help.