Push is on for national housing policy
TheStar.com – Living
Published On Sat Dec 04 2010. By Helen Henderson Disabilities Reporter
This holiday season, I’m thinking big.
How about a national housing policy as a long-overdue gift to the country? A policy that would recognize the precarious economic ground on which almost 2 million Canadians are struggling to maintain balance.
Often they must choose between nutritious food and keeping a roof over their heads. So they can’t eat properly, which leads to physical and emotional stress, which leads to a higher risk of illness, which hampers their ability to participate in their communities, which cuts them off from feeling as if they belong. And so the downward spiral goes. Families that include someone with a disability are among the most at risk. They choose to care for loved ones at home, saving taxpayers six figures a year in institutional costs but reducing themselves to a single income in the process.
All this unpaid labour adds up to billions in government coffers. Yet somehow the money always goes to something other than a national policy to foster safe, accessible and affordable housing.
On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, a group of low-income people and their allies will get together to send a message that such housing is a basic human right. The meeting, from 10 a.m. to noon at 155 Dalhousie St., near Church St. and Dundas St. E., is being organized by the Right to Housing social action committee, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the Dream Team.
Right to Housing ( www.righttohousing.ca) lobbies for safe, quality social housing, where rent is geared to income, as part of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate poverty. Its website points out that four years ago, the United Nations called housing and homelessness in Canada a “national emergency.” It also notes that while the federal government has signed United Nations agreements to ensure adequate housing as a basic human right, “over the past decade this commitment has been significantly eroded.”
The Dream Team ( www.thedreamteam.ca) is a group of psychiatric consumer/survivors who advocate for more affordable, supportive housing in Ontario for people with mental health issues. By telling their personal stories, they show the life-altering benefits built by this type of housing.
The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario ( www.acto.ca), along with Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation ( www.equalityrights.org/cera) and four individuals, has filed a Charter challenge before the Superior Court of Ontario. They argue that “Canada’s failure to respond to the homelessness crisis is in violation of its international commitments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
All this echoes the haunting stories heard last week at a hunger inquiry organized by the Recession Relief Coalition ( www.recessionreliefcoalition.org), a group concerned about the impact of a struggling economy on vulnerable and marginalized people.
Surely we’ve reached the tipping point. It’s time to act.
Among other things, the Dec. 10 meeting will discuss the charter challenge and mounting support for Bill C-304, a private member’s bill introduced by MP Libby Davies (Vancouver East). The Bill calls for “a national housing strategy to ensure that the cost of housing in Canada does not prevent individuals and families from meeting other basic needs, including food, clothing and access to education.”
To attend or endorse the meeting, email Yutaka Dirks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Signs of Support ( www.signsofsupport.ca), a deaf advocacy agency, is running a workshop Dec. 10 for hearing professionals who work with deaf women who have experienced violence at 2:30 p.m. at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 252 Bloor St. W. There is no charge. Email email@example.com.
Helen Henderson is a freelance writer and disability studies student at Ryerson University. Her column appears Saturdays. firstname.lastname@example.org
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