Sarnia’s homeless crisis could worsen in the coming weeks as CERB and other government support programs run out, says Lambton County’s homelessness prevention manager.

“We need to at least be prepared for it. Given the economic trends and what we know is coming it’s a reasonable assumption,” Melissa Fitzpatrick said.

Sarnia’s two homeless shelters are full and have been throughout the pandemic. The overflow – more than 200 adults and children, are put up each night at motels and hotels in Sarnia and Point Edward.

A national guaranteed basic income modelled after a pilot program that once existed in Ontario could cut poverty levels nearly in half, according to Canada’s spending watchdog.

The overall cost of the program would be $85 billion in 2021-22, increasing to $93 billion in its fourth year, although eliminating a wide array of federal and provincial tax credits no longer needed could fund much of the project through new personal income-tax revenues.

It is time to demand reform to our safety net of income security to a basic level of income for all Canadians — to reduce poverty and inequality.

This is time to recognize the polarization of income (haves and have-nots), and stop stigmatizing and degrading people living in poverty. It’s also a time to make decisions on a just society that will not be impacted by political concessions or changes in the political party in power. A basic income should be a right, not a privilege. Moving from welfare to an income transfer program is moving helplessness to hope.

Réseau Habitation Femmes, located in the Villeray—St-Michel—Parc-Extension borough, will be able to offer 26 housing units to single mothers who are living on low income and at risk of becoming homeless. The units represent an investment of $10.9 million.

The Old Brewery Mission will be able to offer 24 rooms and support services in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough to people who are either homeless or at risk of becoming itinerant. This part of the project represents a $6.6-million investment for the parties involved.

The announcement comes after the city had to deal with serious problems involving homeless people in recent months, including the tent city that emerged on Notre-Dame St. after the pandemic struck, and the death of Raphaël André, a 51-year-old homeless man who was found dead in a portable toilet in Plateau-Mont-Royal.

So much of our daily life is centred on food: it nourishes our health and well-being; strengthens our social and cultural bonds; and fuels our creativity and productivity.

Sadly, too many Ontarians have insufficient access to food. Food insecurity has reached a critical point and threatens the well-being of children and families as well as our overburdened health-care system.

A new report, Eating in Ontario: What do we know?, from the Ontario Public Health Association and Nutrition Connections reveals the significance of the threat. Consider, nearly one in seven (13.3 per cent) of all households experience food insecurity. This includes one in three female lone-parent households. People who self-identify as Indigenous are three times more likely to experience food insecurity (22.5 per cent) compared to the non-Indigenous population (6.8 per cent).

A civilized and modern society is measured by how well it cares for the most vulnerable and marginalized. That includes people experiencing homelessness.

Raphaël “Napa” André died alone in January during a curfew, huddled inside a portable toilet near a closed shelter he used to frequent. It’s a sad example of the absurdity of some of the government’s pandemic measures, which have used COVID-19 as a pretext to flout human rights. In February, the city of Montreal boarded up the benches in the Bonaventure metro station, where people experiencing homelessness used to go. It was a way to exclude them from a safe space where they could gather, something all the more necessary considering the frequent changes in the services offered by shelters (locations, hours, facilities) since the beginning of this crisis. And I haven’t even mentioned the fiasco of the Notre-Dame tent camp. Dismantled by police last December, it may face the same fate this year.

At CPJ we have always maintained that an end to poverty in Canada can only be attained through a suite of comprehensive, rights-based policies. Poverty must be addressed as a matter of health, employment, education, food security, housing, and income. But even more fundamentally, it must be addressed as a matter of human rights and dignity.

To end poverty, we need a comprehensive suite of universally-accessible public programs, regulatory standards, and fair taxation. No one program or sector can do this alone, including basic income. Income alone cannot solve a lack of housing stock or childcare spaces. It cannot replace supportive, culturally responsive, professional services. Advocates of basic income agree that adequate income must be provided in tandem with other rights-based policies and programs to ensure people get the supports that meet their needs.