Why we still need a national housing strategy

I wanted to share with you something from an excellent report by the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. One night last winter—February 6, 2013—they conducted a count of the number of people who sought shelter on that one night. That night, overcrowded shelters in our city had to turn 55 people away into the cold, including 8 children—four boys and four girls. But that date also held particular meaning for me, because it was just three weeks later that the Conservatives defeated Bill C-400, a New Democrat proposal to create a National Housing Strategy to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all Canadians. That bill was opposed in the House by every Conservative Member of Parliament. To this day, we are the only G8 country without a housing strategy.

We need to start addressing housing in a comprehensive way. We need to consider why 4,000 children accessed food banks in Greater Victoria last March. While we’re at it, we need to consider why 670 pensioners and 1,442 employed people needed to those food banks too. Last year, the overall emergency shelter occupancy rate in our city was 112%. In plain terms, 112% means throwing mats on the floor so you don’t have turn people away at the door.

With Thanksgiving approaching and the weather turning colder every day, it’s a good time to consider those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in our community. The government could do more, a lot more, to address this crisis and New Democrats will continue to push the Conservatives to recognize the need for a national housing strategy. But we can all do more here in Victoria, as well. So I encourage you all to pick up the phone and call one of the many hardworking organizations we have in our community, and see what you can do to help them.

Here’s a few to get you started:

Our Place Society – (250) 388-7112
The Mustard Seed – (250) 953-1575
The Coalition to End Homelessness – (250) 370-1512
Victoria Cool Aid Society – (250) 383-1977
Beacon Community Services – (250) 658-6407