In a country like Canada no one should be left without a roof over their head; but that is exactly what is happening in far too many of our communities. And the situation is only getting worse. With an estimated 350,000 homeless Canadians and the growing inability for people to find affordable housing, the problem has reached crisis levels and impacts our country both socially and economically.

Housing and income security are two of the most important social determinants of health. Inequality drives up the costs of social assistance, medical care, education, and even incarceration as more people fall below the poverty line. That’s the reason any conversation about homelessness and housing must focus on keeping a roof over the heads of the vulnerable

We already know that social housing that is affordable, safe and decent is the key to reducing poverty. With one in four renters paying more than 30% of their income on housing, it is essential that there be a strong federal and provincial commitment to invest in housing. We know the cost of social housing is much less than the cost of leaving people to struggle on the streets, in shelters, in jail, and the cost of repeated emergency room visits.

By paying attention to those at risk, we can develop a plan and use public resources in a more proactive and economical way. Any plan must also consider New Canadians and those seeking asylum – as they too are part of our community and in need of our help despite what the new Doug Ford government has to say.

I am proud to support the NDP’s housing and homelessness plan introduced last year in Parliament for it brings together communities, municipalities, provinces, Indigenous governments, as well as activists to work directly with MPs on homelessness and insecure housing. It mandates a special parliamentary committee designed to collect evidence and
draft a plan for ending homelessness in Canada. This could provide real results since the federal government’s national housing strategy doesn’t fully address the severity of the housing situation and currently puts off any work until after the next election.

The government strategy also depends on buy-in from the provinces and territories to the tune of $2 billion, without which, no federal money will flow. Sadly it appears that support for Ontario’s social programs is not on the top of Premier Ford’s agenda. His recent claim that refugees have created a housing crisis is not just unacceptable; it completely ignores the failures of federal and provincial governments to do their job and support all segments of our community.

Like many, I was appalled, though sadly not surprised, to hear our new provincial Premier blame new immigrants and those desperately crossing the American border in hopes of finding safety, for our housing crisis. The truth is, this crisis could have been averted decades ago with smart planning and progressive leadership. The housing crisis was a reality long before refugee claimants sought shelter in our system; their arrival has simply shown the disastrous impact of
years of funding cuts and the cancellation of affordable housing by the federal Liberals as far back as 1993 and the provincial Conservatives in 1995.

Canada will and should continue to receive vulnerable people escaping war, economic adversity and Trump’s executive orders.

Certainly Canada faces a housing crisis and we could easily fall down the dangerous and slippery slope of scapegoating the vulnerable, including refugees, instead of working positively on an immediate solution that addresses our housing needs. With some determination and hard work we can start the process that will end homelessness in Canada. The NDP plan
provides a roadmap for action. It’s time we start doing the heavy lifting so that Canada’s most vulnerable can have a safe
place to call home and we can once again fulfill our human and international obligations. It’s all part of the Zakat I truly admire.