Housing is a human right
As our Mayor and elected City councillors sit in their offices drinking their morning coffee and approving projects like their new greenhouse, or purchasing another hotel, there are homeless people wandering the street wondering where they will sleep tonight. Vulnerable people with Mental Health issues, women, seniors, and handicapped.
Yesterday was a sad day for the Homeless AND for the largest shelter in Windsor, Ontario that is not funded by the city. The Downtown Mission is under attack and the city is not telling the truth. All the hotels being used for the homeless are full, the Aquatic centre is full or they are turning people away for a variety of reasons. The City has hit the Downtown Mission with a bylaw infraction 8600 which is zoning, and the interim control bylaw that stops the Mission from going anywhere with out city approval. It is important to know the Health Unit has NOT ordered the building closed, but they can not accept new people. BUT, the city is operating emergency shelters in more than 3 hotels in the city. They approve themselves but not the largest shelter in this city? Why does the City require 2 negative tests, when it takes 1 negative test to fly back into Canada?
Isolation centre pushed to limits helping city homeless cope with Covid 19 The media is reporting how they have all been pushed to their limits. But the Downtown Mission has been instrumental in helping the homeless for 20 years and could have helped the City if the Mission had been invited to discussions.
But here are the facts as one blogger wrote some time ago “Aren’t we all just one bad day away from being homeless” you lost your job, your marriage breaks up, your kicked out of your apartment for non payment, or the place you were staying can’t have you sleeping on their couch anymore. We are NOT just housing the homeless, we are also accommodating seasonal workers who need to be in isolation for two weeks. Every day there is someone who is on the street. Released from jail or hospital. Where do they go??
According to the Human Rights Commission website:
Adequate housing is essential to one’s sense of dignity, safety, inclusion and ability to contribute to the fabric of our neighbourhoods and societies. As the Commission heard in this consultation, without appropriate housing it is often not possible to get and keep employment, to recover from mental illness or other disabilities, to integrate into the community, to escape physical or emotional violence or to keep custody of children.
The right to shelter, to have one’s own bed to sleep in, a roof over one’s head, a place where one’s person and possessions are safe is a human right. It is essential to the preservation of one’s dignity and health – their own space in the world (Toronto Christian Resource Centre).
And here we sit today in a global pandemic, with an outbreak in our (other) most vulnerable population besides LTC homes and people being refused housing. For a full year, Ron Dunn the Director of the Downtown Mission and his loyal staff have held Covid 19 at bay. But we have seen local outbreaks at schools, the Salvation Army and even hospitals. If a hospital can’t keep it out, how can a shelter that is overcrowded. The Downtown Mission has been at this location for 20 years while the number of homeless or those living below the poverty line has increased. The Downtown Mission not only feeds the homeless, many low income residents go there daily for a meal.
There is a definite wedge between the City and the Director of the Downtown Mission, Ron Dunn. The City has refused every location that Ron Dunn has presented to them. The old library was one of them. No one wanted a new shelter on Ouellette. The last location is still in the permit phase. Why is it taking so long??? Yet the City has been busy purchasing a hotel, and approving a new greenhouse which will cost $7.2 million which includes ANOTHER City administration building?? and they will break ground within a month. It shows where our priorities are, a greenhouse and a hotel before a larger shelter for our vulnerable homeless.
The ONLY reason the city got involved with the homeless this year, is because of the pandemic and a local outbreak on their doorstep. Respectfully, it was a combined effort by many hard working organisations in this city to get the Aquatic Centre prepared for the homeless when the Mission was closed. But not ONCE did they sit down with the Director (Ron Dunn) of the Downtown Mission to discuss how EVERY homeless person would be housed. BUT, there was a gap between when the Mission was closed by the Health Department and when the Aquatic Centre and hotels could take in the homeless.
Ron Dunn saw the need and sent out an urgent message to the public and many volunteers including the Angels for the Homeless stepped up.
The library had to be disinfected, sleeping mats cleaned, beds made with sheets, pillows, wash floors, clean bathrooms and a first aid/overdose protection area was put in place. This was all happening during a snow storm, and I was one of many people including Lisa Whitehead and Elaine Langlois who were there to help with this mammoth task. We only had hours to do this as the homeless are normally let in to the shelter at 9:00 pm. As the snow storm got worse, the homeless got more frantic. But as they walked in, they thanked everyone for providing them a safe warm place for the night. Tim Hortons was so generous to donate hot coffee, hot chocolate and donuts for them. On another occasion I found people on the streets and phoned 211 and 311 at 6:00 pm. One number said it was after office hours, and the other is based in Toronto. We talked for over 30 minutes and he had no answer. I told the person I spoke to that the homeless should NOT have to wander the streets trying to find a safe place to sleep. I only had 4 donated sleeping bags and some bags of food which I gave out. The man on the phone was unable to help, but thanked me for giving them sleeping bags. But the homeless don’t want sleeping bags when it is cold. They want and deserve a warm place to sleep. Our City homeless have only ever known the Mission and the Salvation Army as a place to sleep.
The City is NOT supporting our most vulnerable, the homeless. They need to approve the new location, make sure our homeless are safe during this pandemic and stop the politics. The only one who suffers are those who are homeless which include those suffering from Mental Health, drug addiction, PTSD, seniors, handicapped and vulnerable women who could be targets for sex trafficking.
Contact the Mayor and your elected councillors and tell them to stop the politics. Approve the new Mission location and help the homeless
Mayor’s Office Contact
Email or phone all your elected councillors. Especially Rino Bortolin who is Ward 3
Ward 3 – Rino Bortolin