City bylaw officers who arrived to relocate an encampment of homeless people from the parking lot of the YMCA and Memorial Park on May 12 backed off after the situation became tense, the city has said.

The encampment is located in the below-ground parking structure at the YMCA building on Durham Street. The area offers protection from the weather and a heat source from the YMCA pool heater vent directly above. Support workers from several groups have formed the Poverty and Housing Advocacy Coalition (PHAC), which has been offering aid to the fluctuating number of people living there. At points, upwards of 30 or so people were camped under the building.

… the new Russell Street shelter in Vic West is now open and will house up to 60 people in individual pods.

The new shelter is set to provide complete services including meals a safe consumption site, showers, laundry facilities and 24-hour security.

One Vic West resident says the shelter opening was a surprise.

“This is a shock to us still,” said Tony Young, adding that the community is bracing for the worst.

Poverty is at the root of food insecurity in Canada’s North, say experts.

Eight witnesses testified to the House of Commons’ Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee on the topic of food insecurity in Northern Canada on Tuesday.

Many northern communities lack economies that can generate wealth, said Merlyn Recinos, vice-president of business development at Arctic Fresh Inc, a store in Nunavut that sells affordable products online.

“What we need is to create an economy to be able to create those jobs,” Recinos told MPs. “(When) you create those jobs, you’re creating wealth within the community.”

Setting up guidelines where homeless shelters and supportive housing should and shouldn’t go will be the hot topic again at Penticton’s Safety and Security Committee meeting on Monday.

Blake Laven, the city’s director of development services, will present an update on the proposed guidelines of where future shelters and supportive housing should be placed.

Penticton city council wants to set up guidelines so that the provincial government can be made aware of its boundaries.

One of the suggested no-go zones is Skaha Lake Road where BC Housing is building a four-storey, 54-unit supportive housing for those experiencing homeless. Several people in reflective vests were walking the site last week, leading to speculation if work is getting underway soon.

Police in riot gear stood by Monday to ensure the departure of about 20 people who had erected a makeshift camp on Hochelaga St. near de l’Assomption Blvd.

The Quebec transport department, which owns the wooded site known as the Boisé Steinberg, handed out eviction notices on Saturday evening informing campers that any tents or belongings that remained by Monday would be removed.

“We cannot tolerate the presence of organized camps on the territory of the city of Montreal,” Nathalie Goulet, the city’s executive committee member responsible for homelessness, said Monday.

The federal government’s economic response to COVID-19 included a new income support called the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). What was it like to live on CERB when it was available, and how did it compare to the situations of those who were either still working or receiving provincial social assistance?

Surviving on CERB’s $2,000 per month was certainly a pinch. Given median employment income in Canada was $36,900 in 2019, the CERB only replaced two-thirds of monthly employment income for the average Canadian. Given half of Canadians are only $200 away from insolvency on a monthly basis, that was a big hit.

Yet for those receiving provincial disability and welfare payments, the CERB was the lap of luxury. Under the Ontario Disability Support Program, people continued to receive only $1,169 per month (with one-time pandemic top-ups of $100 per month until the end of July 2020). This is just two-thirds of the CERB level, but still above the $733 per month provided to Ontario social assistance recipients who did not qualify for CERB.

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.