And there were no homeless people to be seen. This description seems like a tale ones grandparents would tell about a time long, long ago.
Twenty-five years is certainly longer than a minute, but not long, long ago. What has happened to change plentiful affordable housing and little or no homelessness to the current situation? Several things:
Beginning in 1982, the province de-institutionalized mentally ill people, arguing that their recovery would be aided by living in supportive communities. Unfortunately, adequate supports have never been put in place.
The federal government removed itself from involvement in the provision of subsidized and co-op housing.
Housing became increasingly a speculative investment. Since home ownership, even at the entry level, is no longer an option for many who had been aiming to own, these individuals must rent. But no new market rentals have been built for the past fifteen years.
It's easy to think first of the mentally ill people we see on the streets when we describe the homeless. We assume that alcohol and drug addiction is responsible for homelessness, not recognizing that many people begin to take drugs as a result of being on the street-to take away some of the pain.
There are others less visible, but equally homeless, and there is an increasing number of people at great risk of becoming homeless.
The invisible homeless include working people who can't find an affordable rental: the construction workers working on new buildings, the'pink collar' workers and the minimum wage earners throughout
Then there are the people who are one disaster away from becoming homeless. Some could be in a pew near you: the renters who can't afford to move because new rents are so high, the two earners paying the rent and then one is laid off, the people who live on fixed pensions. The people whose buildings acquire new owners who evict in order to 'upgrade.' New rents always end up higher than what was paid before.
If we don't find a way to build rentals we stand in great danger of repeating the disaster that occurred in the mid-1990s in the Silicon Valley and
As recently as this November, Americans who had bought
Individual and groups of Anglicans in this diocese already work with homeless people whether as the City of Vancouver's Housing Advocate, the various churches' meal and other ministries, the Street Priest, the 127 Society for Housing, and the Coming Home Society, and those who support these ministries, our various levels of government need to realize that the financial costs of keeping people homeless are higher than the costs of creating homes for them.
So what can we do about all this? I have some suggestions:
What We Can Do