Politicking has hurt county’s poor
TheBarrieExaminer.com – news
May 7, 2011. Christopher M. Mansour
There’s a line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that breaks my heart whenever I think about the poor and the disenfranchised: “are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?”
One young woman I met loathed the idea of affordable housing because she felt it creates “more crack houses.”
Dickens’ father spent the worst years of his life in London’s Marshalsea debtors’ prison because he owed 15 pounds to another man; young Charles was condemned to work at a blacking house at the tender age of 12 to escape starvation; he would later write that that foul place left as black a mark upon his own soul as his father’s imprisonment.
Charles’ harsh experience inspired his masterpieces, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Little Doritt. And yet, over a cent ury after the great author’s death, poverty is still being condemned as something shameful; its victims stereotyped as prostitutes, drug addicts and petty criminals.
A series of federal and provincial governments have left Simcoe County’s poor to suffer the degradations and misery of the street — to suffer the judgment and cruelty of society’s ignorant.
According to the 2009 poverty report of the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness, 7,500 people experienced homelessness in 2008.
Many of these individuals were women who were sexually or physically assaulted, averaged three or more years of homelessness, and suffered psychological and physical harm from life on the streets (SCATEH 2009). The report states that only 1,463 persons received shelter assistance.
But let’s consider the young woman’s comment in its context.
Homelessness, says SCATEH, affects people for many reasons including insufficient affordable housing, low income, mental health and/or substance abuse issues, family conflict, job loss and inadequate discharge planning.
According to the previous statement, a sudden reversal or change of fortunes could potentially make any person homeless.
An abuse victim, for example, or a person with low income, who cannot afford the skyrocketing costs of living, might be forced to turn to the shelters as the only way to survive.
In Simcoe County, there are approximately six subsidized housing units available for every 1,000 people, giving us the worst rating for affordable housing available in Ontario. And what about the substance abuse the young woman alluded to?
Certainly crime and substance abuse are not exclusively confined to the poor and working class.
Homelessness, as Dickens would agree, is still associated with filthy street corners and ghettos.
So what if we forgot about party politicking for a moment? SCATEH believes that affordable housing with appropriate support levels can enable many people to recover from homelessness.
Isn’t it only fair that we have at least one political party who, like Charles Dickens, sides with the poor, the transient and the disenfranchised?
Christopher M. Mansour Barrie
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