By: Zara Lewis
It seems to be that on every block you turn there is one homeless person after the next, each waiting to be given that extra dollar from passersby. And at night, store entrances turn into a place to sleep for the homeless.
In 2007 the figure of homelessness in Canada stood between 200,000 to 300,000 people, with a further 1.7 million residents struggling to afford their homes.
According to a report carried out in January 2012 by Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre, statistics have shown that Hamilton has one of the highest poverty rates amongst the cities in Ontario with 23 per cent of the population, translating to more than two in five people living in poverty.
Recently the Ontario government has revealed that they will be modifying the funding designated to social services. These changes will result in less money being given to programs set up around Hamilton that aim to tackle the issue of homelessness.
The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction is one organization which aims to address the unacceptable levels of poverty experienced in Hamilton. Tom Cooper, Director of the organization, is unhappy with the recent funding changes. He said, “We are very discouraged that the Ontario government has abandoned its commitment to a poverty strategy and are not protecting the most vulnerable residents of our community.”
In response to the changes The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction already has plans underway in order to combat this new set back: “we are working all hands on deck to change the provincial governments minds as it is so detrimental to the community,” Cooper said. The charity has since been in contact with Hamilton City Council to look at a day of action in order to speak out to provincial politicians.
Closely linked to the issue of homelessness are the mental health issues that often affect a large proportion of individuals who are homeless. Research from the Canadian Journal of Public health in 2005 found that 6 per cent of the homeless in Toronto have schizophrenia, and a further 20-40 per cent have affective disorders such as kleptomania, major depressive disorder and impulse control disorders, amongst others. In addition to this Toronto’s Pathways into Homelessness Project found that 29 per cent of shelter users met the criteria for having anti-social personality disorders.
Evidently, the issue of homelessness is a very pressing problem, and here at McMaster University the problem hasn’t gone unnoticed. DeGroote Impact is a student-run initiative, now in its fifth year, and works to support the Good Shepherd Youth Shelter.
“5 Days for the Homeless” is one of the biggest events DeGroote Impact puts on in which students live outside the student centre for the week to raise awareness about what the public can do to help the homeless. They also run bake sales and talent shows. This year is no exception and DeGroote is hoping to launch the best campaign they have had so far, and spread the message further than the year before.