In recent days, municipal politicians in Ontario have jumped on a bandwagon to denounce homelessness as a national disaster. First Toronto, now Ottawa city and regional councils.
Fair enough. After all, who can quarrel with the sentiment? But where is, as the saying used to go, the beef? Whatever happened to the concept of actions speaking louder the words? In other words, where’s the money to go along with the fine words?
Regional council at least tried, putting another $30,000 toward emergency shelters to be matched by the province. But $30,000 is a drop in the proverbial bucket. It hardly addresses the problem. City council didn’t even do that, for all the handwringing. Instead, councillors want the federal and provincial governments to finance the fight by using existing diaster relief funds.
While we vigorously agree that homelessness is a social ill that must be eliminated, we think the councillors’ methods are misguided.
The homeless need immediate and concrete solutions to address the present lack of social housing, not symbolic sound bytes.
In adopting these motions, we hope city and regional council are not shirking their responsibilities.
To be sure, homelessness and its underlying causes are an expensive problem. But if municipal politicians are proposing to solve the problem by asking higher levels of government for more money, then they are guilty of evading their civic duty.
Local government is closest to the problem, hence, it must implement social housing programs. Municipalities are ultimately responsible for devising viable programs to help people off the street.
Leadership must be exercised by muncipalities to solve the crisis of homeless people on our streets, not begging others for the means to do so.
The trend in politics recently has been to off-load responsibility onto lower levels of government. It was only a matter of time before municipal governments started to call for the uploading of costs back to the tiers of government with deeper pockets.
Leadership consists of deciding on a course of action, then acting on it and taking full responsibility for the consequences.
City and regional council need to show its conviction to fighting homelessness, perhaps by using some of its own emergency funds to make a start.
After all, doesn’t charity begin at home?
—Rawlson King and David MacGillivray