Over the past decade, the treatment of homeless people in Canada has gotten significantly worse. So called “tent cities” are being torn down all over Ontario and what shelters we have are overcrowded and underfunded. Its estimated that each year in Canada there are roughly 235 000 homeless people, which, for reference, is around the same as Kitchener’s population.
The homeless crisis is a serious issue that is quickly becoming an emergency.
A particularly popular tent city under the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto was recently ordered to be torn down by Toronto’s mayor John Tory. On January twelfth of this year, city staff came in and began to disassemble the makeshift homes of many people in need. Heavy equipment was used to remove blankets and mattresses and whatever else the homeless people owned, and it was all dubbed “debris” and thrown out.
Though this move was widely criticized, Tory is considering calling a state of emergency as well as doing what he can to help the displaced people. Most shelters are at or over-capacity and still being filled, but thousands of dollars have been pledged to build more shelters, and they hope to find identification and hopefully employment for those who refuse placement. Chronic homelessness is nowhere near in end in Toronto, but at least something proactive is being done.
In Kitchener, however, it is quite the opposite. Our few shelters are underfunded and understaffed, and there are too many bodies and not enough beds. The homelessness budget is thin and what excess money the city has is being used for construction; of condos no one ones, of the LRT no one needs, and worst of all, the anti-homeless mechanisms at every junction. Benches at bus stops now have built-in armrests to prevent people from lying down and sleeping there, ledges and curbs are decorated with spikes and bolts to make it uncomfortable and dangerous to lay down on, and many other flat surfaces are being curved or vandalized to scare away the homeless. Think about how many thousands of dollars were spent installing these anti-homeless contraptions when all that money could have been spent on shelters and food for the people that are suffering. This goes to show that we are a far way away from solving the homeless crisis and providing the care and safety that the lesser-fortunate deserves. Kitchener, Ontario, and Canada, all have to do better.