For most of his life, Murray Barr was an ordinary American until everything changed abruptly when his story of personal tragedy and period of homelessness created a media frenzy. It was in his article, “Million Dollar Murray,” that Malcolm Gladwell turned homelessness into a celebrity cause by illustrating how Barr cost the taxpayers of Reno, Nevada around a million dollars despite not having a permanent home.

Murray’s story shocked many because it seemed unfathomable that homelessness cost money, let alone a million dollars. In reality, this is far from uncommon.

People without a home, and lacking supports for mental illness and addiction, can draw significantly on social services for survival, including shelters, social agencies and hospitals. They also tend to interact more frequently with police, fire and paramedic services – those agencies on the frontlines, dealing with the visible symptoms of homelessness. This all costs money.

Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up? is the title of a new anthology co-edited by Mount Royal University associate English professor Michael Truscello and Toronto-based post-secondary educator Ajamu Nangwaya.

The book shares its title with a 2015 New York Times op-ed by American academic and journalist Thomas Edsall. Was that the impetus for the project?

It provided impetus, although the question of why don’t the poor rise up is always part of revolutionary thinking. But the op-ed was recognition that even capitalist media like The New York Times and The Economist are perplexed there isn’t more opposition to the system given the record levels of inequality, runaway climate change, and other [oppressive] facets of the current order. That suggested there was a new level of awareness, and the moment was ripe for popular revolt

There is data that demonstrates that for our poor, faced with the priorities of daily survival, voting is a “nice-to-do,” rather than a “need to do.”

Ironically, given their large number, if the poor got out and cast their vote, they could decide who will govern our city and influence policies to reduce poverty in Calgary. And at the same time, it would reaffirm their citizenship and begin to lessen their marginalization and powerlessness.

So what can be done in these final days of the 2017 municipal campaign?

… It seems so simple, yet we are not doing it. It is not too late. Start today. By assisting people get out to vote, you will be helping to reduce poverty.

Since June of last year, Stuart Wood School has sat empty. However, this winter it will be given new life as a safe haven for the city’s homeless population.

“We had the space available,” said acting mayor Arjun Singh. “It’s obviously not used right now, and we’re still waiting for some discussions to go through in terms of the final use for that building, so it was an ideal position for us to utilize it for the extreme weather shelter, just the gym portion, for the wintertime.”

The temporary shelter is fully funded by BC Housing, and will be operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Have you ever taken on additional shifts at work for some extra cash and then failed an exam because you didn’t study enough? Bought a phone for $0 to save money then only to end up stuck in a three-year contract? Signed up for a high-interest credit card without really reading the fine print because it meant immediate access to funds?

This may be how are brains are wired to operate, according to researchers who have been studying the cognitive mechanisms behind scarcity. They say when we’re under financial stress and focused on solving a problem related to money, our brains tend to tune out other information and hinder our ability to do unrelated tasks. And it may explain why some people who are living in poverty can’t seem to get themselves out of it.

Poverty, especially child poverty, is a huge black mark in my hometown of Surrey and in British Columbia and Canada at large. We know that poverty leads to poor health and social outcomes for children in later years. Poverty is essentially a waste of human resources. It ensures that a segment of the population will not be living up to their potential.

Thousands of people are forced to take low-wage jobs with no benefits or pension to pay the bills. They are unable to pursue their true passion in life, whether that is to go to school or start a new company or volunteer in the community.

Who knows how many future Nobel Prize winners were too exhausted to invent a cure for cancer or AIDS or find ways to clean up pollution because they were trapped working two jobs just to pay for inflated rents and the necessities of life just to survive

Stack them up. Take them down. Move them around. Repeat.

What could easily pass as a description of the children’s toy Lego could also be a portrait of British Columbia’s latest tool in the fight against homelessness.

The province is turning to modular housing to help with a critical lack of short-term accommodation. Temporary modular housing involves the construction of small, self-contained living quarters, which can be shipped directly from a factory and quickly assembled.