Time to grow up

Our impulse control is clearly not in check this morning, so please excuse the rant on a subject that has been our passion for closing in on four decades.

It matters little to us, the cat and mouse game of word play. Replacing the “homeless” moniker with “unhoused” or pitching the “rights argument” when it comes to taking over streetscapes and parks with encampments to the detriment of others. 

The end result, regardless of the gibberish on the subject, for all to see in plain sight, is abundant failure on the part of society. 

What a display it is.

A couple weeks back news surfaced of the county-led health and housing symposium. Its format of “invite-only” perturbed a few in the press corps. While we understand the frustration in being denied the chance to help explain this serious social issue, in due time a report will emerge. But for this first round, hearing directly from people living this way was an important first step in understanding. The grace with which that opportunity was met follows in our news story this week (pages 1 and 36).

We readily admit a disdain for protests. Apart from the acrimony that ensues and distraction from action, looking for a headline or a shareable post on social media is often about the participant not the cause. How many 15-minutes-of-fame moments do people serious about solving problems have to suffer through before clarity on a subject emerges? This issue needs a dose of reality, not theatre.

Within the confines of the symposium, 35 key organizations were noted as attending. Such a number represents the intricate web that exists around providing housing, whether it is the dance around addiction, mental health issues, general well-being or how those factors affect multi-unit housing options. Crime prevention and social interactions must be considered too. While the county is now assuming a leadership role on this issue, the question has to be asked: where has the province and federal government been hiding all these years? Surely ministries staffed with smart, aware professionals would have blueprints for success? Clearly, both upper levels of government have been content to do nothing on the housing file.

While we have great sympathy for the plight of those who choose or had no other choice than to encamp in public spaces, the problem of housing extends past the addicted and those with mental health issues. Emerging in Canada are the marginalized working poor who, despite best efforts and a good work ethic, can’t bridge the gap between income and cost of living. This is the next part of the crisis taking root. In fact, just this morning we heard of a case near Guelph where a family was forced to camp out after losing its home. Where does someone in that shape go, when their credit is shot, they have no savings and no resources are available for rent-geared-to-income? It is maddening.

This is where the growing up part, kicks in. Politicians and the bureaucracy need to admit they are a big part of the problem. It’s a big step, and it will be uncomfortable, but until they see their role in this crisis nothing will happen.

For generations the Planning Act and local implementation of those rules has been against affordable housing. And here we go with the word play again – one person’s version of affordable is another’s version of unattainable. The dollars and cents aren’t working for most people. 

While readers, ourselves included, may sit back in the lazy boy and ponder that thought because financially we are okay, there is a growing crowd that have it tough. The 35 organizations with well-paid professional staff should have been shouting from the rooftops that this problem was getting worse by the day. Afflict the comfortable. 

That absence of leadership is how Guelph (and other urban centres) ended up with encampments in their downtown because governments failed to take care of business. While we are sure there are people who are very invested in their work and really care about helping others, the system overall has failed. During that time however, professionals and businesses turned a buck, while employees of organizations tasked with ensuring adequate levels of service made a solid wage. How about those in need? Nothing, not even a promise to do better.

We hope the promised report offers meaningful solutions and politicians have the guts to vote “yes” to housing.


The point we hope to make is likely pointless.

Earlier this week a two-year-old was taken to hospital in Ottawa as a precaution after putting a syringe, found in a local park, in her mouth. Drug-related items were found nearby where it was believed the child found the object.

We know drugs kill. The pointless element is a plea to people engaged in such activities to show some respect for the community at large and do their business elsewhere. Failing success with that request, parents must keep an eye out for hazards before letting kids roam free. It is unfortunate, but a necessity.

Keep public spaces safe for all.