On Saturday May 30, 2020, in large red letters in the Toronto Star’s Insight section, the question is asked: “Is the time ripe for a basic income?”

Beside the headline, some supposedly provocative figures are mashed together:

“$2000 – Monthly amount of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

$151.7 billion – Total emergency spending to date including $40 billion to 8 million on CERB

$86 billion – Estimated annual cost of a basic income the last time it was looked at

$260 billion – Revised estimated deficit, $8 billion higher than last reported.”

I think what the headline and the numbers are trying to acknowledge is that, as a nation, we suddenly agreed with the idea of handing out large amounts of money to our residents who lost income because of the COVID19 crisis. We also proved that it was possible to pay out that amount of money quickly.

A Toronto shelter for people experiencing homelessness has closed for two weeks after COVID-19 killed two men who were staying there and infected 18 others.

Executive director Bob Duff says St. Simon’s shelter, located near Bloor and Sherbourne streets, shut down last week after the results came in from an on-site test of all residents.

“More than a third tested positive, and they were all asymptomatic,” Duff told CBC News. A staff member was also found to have COVID-19.

The City of Edmonton is beginning to remove certain homeless encampments, following concerns from residents about a decision to “pause” enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travis Boucher, a resident of Edmonton’s Boyle Street neighbourhood, said Friday that city crews cleaned up a large encampment near 105 Avenue and 96 Street the day prior.

The camp formed near the LRT tunnel and the bottle depot earlier this year and had around 15 tents with 20 to 30 residents.

Boucher said the camp has become a concern for residents of Métis Capital Housing, saying it has been been source of noise, unruly behaviour and crime. Things came to a head Thursday night, when Boucher and a group of men smoking outside were bear sprayed by a woman who they believe came from the camp.

Montreal is being shortchanged on emergency funding meant to go toward fighting the spread of COVID-19 among its homeless population, according to three experts on homelessness.

If the situation isn’t rectified soon, hundreds more people will end up living on the street before the pandemic is done.

Montreal homeless haven’t seen ‘one penny’ of emergency funds: shelter director

Nearly two months ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Quebec would get $21 million in funding to make sure the homeless have a place to sleep and other essential services throughout the pandemic. Since 70 per cent of the province’s homeless population lives on the island, the city’s shelters assumed they’d be getting the lion’s share of that money.

Instead, the Quebec government transferred less than half of the federal package to shelters in Montreal.

New supportive housing options are on the way to those experiencing homelessness in Kelowna — without need for the usual rezoning from city council.

On May 20, the province announced it is building 38 modular housing units at 1055 and 1063 Ellis Street — nearby the current city-sanctioned camp on Recreation Avenue.

“The need for safe and secure housing has never been clearer, and these new homes will give more people a place to call their own,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are working quickly and urgently with our partners to protect all British Columbians during the COVID-19 crisis, including our province’s most vulnerable – because when people have housing, it’s good for everyone in the community.”

The Great Depression of the 1930s gave us the Bank of Canada, Employment Insurance (EI) and federal equalization payments. The Great Recession of 2008 produced a revolution in monetary policy and a legacy of concern about household debt.

Will the Great Lockdown of 2020 bequeath us guaranteed universal income?

The City of Toronto has committed to physical distancing standards across its shelter system after the deaths of two shelter residents and more than 300 COVID-19 cases at some 21 sites.

A coalition of frontline service providers had filed a lawsuit against the city and the Province of Ontario last month alleging a failure to protect the lives of those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.

The agreement, which was reached last Friday and will be formalized this morning (Tuesday, May 19), comes just before an injunction motion claiming a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code was scheduled to be heard in the Superior Court of Justice on June 8.