The Issues Behind the Issues

Poverty and homelessness continue to be pervasive local social issues. There are numerous organizations engaging in important actions to try to deal with the needs of those affected. Many of the homeless or working poor in the city rely upon the meals, clothing, and shelter provided by these agencies.

However, most of these organizations – worthy though they may be – treat the symptoms of the problem, and not the underlying causes. A meal or place to sleep may serve someone’s immediate needs, but not in the long term. Those individuals who are mentally ill or dealing with addiction need to get the treatment they need in order to live stable lives. True, in these cases it is a two-way street: the person must be willing to make the commitment in addition to having access to the necessary services.

Yet this commitment comes with a cost. It is difficult to afford medication when one doesn’t have enough money to buy food. It is difficult to stay clean and sober when not having a place to live forces one to associate with their drinking or using buddies for support.

Then, there are those who are “working poor” – they have jobs that simply do not earn them enough to pay for all the necessities of life. We live in a city with no rent controls, have a minimum wage that no person could ever afford to live on, and are in a province experiencing a so-called “boom” that is resulting in increased housing prices due to the migration of so many workers here in search of a supposed better life.

Bandage solutions work for the moment, but as a society we need to work towards solutions that are more permanent. This can only be achieved by dealing with the root causes. Otherwise, poverty and homelessness will continue to rise and service organizations will be overly burdened beyond their capacity to handle the demand.

Paula is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. Her website is: