Our city’s executive has this habit once or twice every decade of announcing some big plan. These plans are an attempt to re-define our city, to make it something appealing to outsiders, or to give it a certain new direction. I feel that very few of these initiatives are particularly insightful. They are plans that fall short years before they are supposed to be finished, or they do not last longer than the current executive and administration team that created them. I believe that they do not get realized because of a number of factors: lack of long-term accountability; a very uni-directional mindset about the initiative; the rusty marriage to historic approaches, jejune quodlibets instead of progressive measures. This initiative is different, as it is not something that we should let fail. Everyone in our ward is directly affected by homelessness in some way. Most try to ignore the problem, or refrain from participating, but everyone wishes it gone. The amount of imploring sub-initiatives to have our larger community connect with these issues for the greater good in our city falls on an apathetic and embarrassed populace.
This is the biggest problem our city faces socially, fiscally, and accountably. It is, without too much of a Rachel Boynton muckrake, a crisis. It is an issue that has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year to simply monitor and maintain. The goal of ending it, put forward eight years ago, is viewed by many people as unattainable, that the plan will never work, or even that it is a futile goal. I have spent months interviewing those working directly with people experiencing homelessness, professionals involved in emergency services, and key people in the provincial government. I have conducted exhaustive research to try and figure out what went wrong with this initiative, how we can get it on track, and actually accomplish one of our city’s lofty statements.
The problem, for all its humanitarian benevolence, is a financial problem for our city that keeps getting worse the longer it is left to linger. I am of the strongest opinion that we are not on track to solve homelessness currently because there is no one that is holding anyone accountable to the initial plan. Many of the original signatories of the plan are no longer involved, and our current council is overtly focused on public transportation. We have already committed several hundreds of millions of dollars – a lot of which goes to administering the crisis in perpetuity – and which relies on the federal and provincial governments to contribute the vast majority of funds. So, the city has so far relegated the problem to a federal affair or a provincial one, which does not change anything about the people on our streets, in our parks, in our river valley, using up our police, emergency medical services, fire, our social assistance societies and non-profit businesses who are working directly with people experiencing homelessness. We absolutely should be holding our council accountable for this crisis, and angry and frustrated with those in the executive who refuse to take the necessary steps to making this a successful goal.
A detailed outline of the plan I intend to pursue as a councillor is presented here. Not a single other person has been able to suggest anything other than a variation of our current plan, indeed, the city’s updated announcement this past February is again showing how we prefer to manage the problem – say we are doing something about it. Such gestures make these officials look good in the public eye while also stroking their egos, but have sadly fallen short of ending this crisis. This issue is my focus and would be the single best thing to happen to this city in the coming few months, and over the next few years. The city saves money, it looks better, it becomes safer and helps people effectively have a good life.