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Affordability Series - Poverty and Homelessness

by Anne Jardine

All examples cited in this series of articles on Affordability are based on real experiences recounted by East and West Kootenay people living with affordability concerns.

In Ready for Better, Canada’s New Democratic Party outlines its many commitments to make life more affordable for ordinary people. The income gap between the wealthiest Canadians and the rest of us has grown exponentially, and that means poverty and homelessness have become more evident and more desperate everywhere.

Even here in the Kootenays, we have a homeless population. In the midst of “cabin country” where wealthy people from large urban centres like Calgary own second homes, local working people are unable to find appropriate and affordable places to live.

In Cranbrook and Nelson, where homeless shelters and support services are available, the need is measured by numbers of beds occupied on any given night, and has grown steadily. In Cranbrook, the known homeless population increased from 29 people in 2018 to 63 people in 2021. In Nelson, the known number of homeless individuals was 132 in 2018, and according to the Nelson Committee on Homelessness’ most recent report card released in June 2021, that number has increased to 363.

In smaller communities throughout the Kootenays, homeless shelters are generally not an option, and thus the numbers of people who need homes are harder to measure. Some indicators have become noticable, however.

In Invermere, Windermere, and Edgewater, for instance, we have young adult children moving back in with their parents or living in RVs and camper vans out in their driveways. On remote logging roads, we have little encampments of people living rough trying to save up for winter. We have near zero vacancy rates for long-term rental housing in many of our communities. We have people forced to make do, living on the margins, not knowing what they might have to do without next.

Homelessness here in the rural context may not be as visible as it is in large urban settings, but it exists, and it is heart-wrenching.

“In a country as wealthy as Canada, there is no excuse to leave any Canadian living in poverty or without a safe roof over their head.

Our affordable housing strategy will include measures to support Canadians at risk of becoming homeless, taking the lead from communities about local needs and adopting a “housing first” approach. To help people find an affordable home in the long term, we will support the creation of more social housing and other affordable options. To deliver help to the most vulnerable right away, we’ll also work with the provinces and municipalities to fast-track the purchase, lease and conversion of hotels and motels for emergency housing relief until more permanent, community-based solutions are available.” Affordable for Everyday People

Search for "Affordability" in the search bar on this website for other blog posts in the Series.

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