As Chair of the London Homeless Coalition I was acutely impacted by the fire occurring on Oxford St that claimed the life of David McPherson. David was known to many of our member agencies, as were several of the other 30 residents living in accommodations meant for 12 people. This scenario shed light on a situation of which many of us were aware, but had taken limited action on: That many people exiting homelessness end up living in substandard accommodations. Through the London Housing Advisory Committee we have requested that the City consider these types of accommodations, low income housing aimed to assist persons with disabilities, in their current by-law review.
One of the considerations I often hear is that housing of any kind that is affordable is better than the alternative of street or shelter. With an adult on Ontario Works only receiving $376 per month of shelter, regular market rent housing is obviously out of the picture. This is further complicated in situations where individuals require some degree of support, in the case of Oxford St, some food was provided. From this perspective, additional by-laws and regulations that increase the cost of housing put housing further out of reach. However, it has long been my stance to resist this sort of logic.
It is my fundamental belief that all people who are homeless deserve to have housing that is safe, affordable, supported, quality, and permanent. I highlight the principles of safe and quality. I believe that in a Canadian context we have the resources and the skills to provide people with a minimum standard of housing regardless of their income limitations. Therefore, if standards of safety and quality increase the cost of housing, so to should assistance be increased to cover these costs.
Because of this stance, myself and the Coalition have supported landlord licensing, and support better by-law protection around care homes. We understand that this increases pressures and costs of those managing the homes, but with safety and quality as the priority, I would hope that our community could lobby together to address the increased costs.
I will not support moving people into substandard housing for the expediency of getting them off the street or out of shelter. Similarly, as many individuals who are homeless experience physical, mental, and developmental challenges, I support the rigorous creation and enforcement of high standards of care. To balance this, I would be a willing partner with our fellow community agencies in lobbying for the resources to make these standards realistic for all individuals, regardless of income source.