It wasn’t always this way, as housing advocates who have been around longer than I have can attest.

Coun. Jean Swanson has reminded me a few times over the years that her friend, Sheila Baxter, published a book in 1991 titled, “Under the viaduct: homeless in beautiful B.C.”

In doing the research, Baxter had some difficulty locating homeless people.

Swanson shared this anecodote last year during an interview related to the city releasing results of the annual homeless count, which showed there were 2,095 people either living in a shelter or on the street.

With a smattering of nays from the floor of the House of Commons, the federal NDP’s latest effort to pressure the Liberal government to implement a guaranteed livable basic income was defeated.

But while the non-binding motion required unanimous approval, meaning it never stood a reasonable chance of proceeding, the push to build a financial safety net for all is unlikely to dissipate as Canada wrestles with a devastating third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am committed to keep building momentum and moving forward exploring next steps with advocates leading the guaranteed livable basic income movement throughout Canada,” Leah Gazan, the NDP’s critic for children, families and social development, said after the setback.

From Greens to Conservatives, it seems everyone has a version of guaranteed basic income (BI) that they can support. There is confusion, however, over the objectives of BI, and very different views on what is feasible.

The debate on BI has advanced with the recent publication of a study commissioned by the British Columbia government, and by tworeports from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

The B.C. report rejects BI on the grounds that it would be cheaper to achieve poverty reduction in the province through targeted measures. The PBO report suggests that the national poverty rate can be halved at no net cost, assuming the elimination of some tax credits and social assistance programs. Who is right?

A petition asking Red Deer city council to reverse its decision forcing the relocation of Safe Harbour’s temporary shelter from downtown is gaining support.

Council voted March 29 to give Safe Harbour a two-month extension at its current location in the former Cannery Row building. In the meantime, The City of Red Deer agreed to help find a new location.

Unfortunately for Safe Harbour, there are currently no other sites in Red Deer zoned for that type of use, with the rezoning process typically taking at least six weeks to complete. This would leave Safe Harbour with just two weeks to relocate once City administration can bring a recommendation to council for them to vote on.

A small community in northwestern Alberta says it dismantled a homeless camp on private property last week after receiving complaints about criminal activity.

But advocates for the dozen or so First Nation and Métis peoples evicted from the homemade shacks are calling for compassion.

“I seen a very sad situation is what I seen,” said Jason Ekeberg of Métis Nation of Alberta Region 1, who was there as the camp was destroyed.

“We have to support them, they’re human beings.”

P.E.I.’s commitment to end food insecurity by 2030 is precedent-setting, says a food insecurity researcher, and she has some suggestions about how the province should go about it.

The P.E.I. Legislature made the commitment in passing the Poverty Elimination Strategy Act, introduced by Green MLA Hannah Bell, earlier this month. The act includes targets government can track to make sure it is making progress on this issue.

“That is absolutely precedent-setting,” said University of Toronto nutritional science Prof. Valerie Tarasuk.

“We’ve seen other provinces and the federal government, you know, talk about food insecurity and different documents. But we’ve never seen anybody come forward with a commitment like P.E.I. to say we want to end this.”

The pandemic and the associated recession provide an opportunity for us to reconsider the ‘normal’ state of affairs. Now is the time to envision a bold new normal and learn from the failures of the previous status quo.

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the estimated number of Canadians experiencing homelessness each year was anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000. Difficulties in collecting data around the exact number of people experiencing homelessness means that this number could be much higher. In Toronto alone, an estimated 10,000 people were homeless on any given night – with over 500 sleeping rough outside on the streets, or in encampments in Toronto’s ravines, waterfront, and under overpasses. The wait list for supportive housing in Toronto has grown from 700 in 2009, to over 18,000 now, and is projected to rise to 37,000 without new investments.