Young, T. (June 23, 2016). Vancouver Courier, A11.
Re: Homelessness at all-time high but not the story it used to be (June 9, 2016)
The Marquis de Sade would no doubt be enamoured of the cruel, inhumane, and harmful behaviour of the BC Liberal government in driving the biggest homelessness crisis in British Columbia since the Great Depression.
Make no mistake about it, the public policies of the BC government have set the stage for this human, and societal tragedy.
Since 2007 the shelter rate for basic income assistance has been capped at $375, with $235 for support. If you are homeless, you may, or may not be provided with the support portion. This policy is totally random and inconsistent in how it is applied.
As a social worker, I have worked with the most marginalized, vulnerable, and poor people in the province. Time and time again these high-risk/high-need people have been completely shut out of accessing basic income assistance due to the cicular hoops they have to jump through.
Applications to income assistance through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation are now only available online. If you struggle with literacy, ESL, mental health, or other issues, how can you be expected to complete something like this online? If you do not have an address, where does MSDSI send the stack of papers you have to complete to possibly qualify?
Many people who are homeless have lost everything they own. If you have no birth certificate, you cannot obtain identification. With no ID, you have no ability to access bank records for the past 60 days, part of the application process. If you have no ID, or access to bank records, you cannot access income assistance, medical, or prescription coverage. If you are "lucky" maybe you will receive a short-term "hardship" allowance, which has to be re-applied for on a month-to-month basis. Again, its completely random whether individuals will be granted hardship.
Another example of the injustice and inhumanity of the BC government's policies is the trumpeting in the increase of disability assistance, only to claw back this "increase" by forcing disabled people to sacrifice their access to affordable transportation in the form of a disability bus pass. I wonder how many of us would be able to survive on $906.42 per month, the cruel amount disabled people in B.C. are expected to shelter, feed, and care for themselves with?
This government-sponsored, and institutionalized, impoverishment, when combined with the current real estate disease inflating house prices, and a dearth of affordable housing is spreading throughout the province this epidemic of homelessness is increasing. Its going to get much worse too as the B.C. government clearly has no intention of doing anything substantial to improve the situation. While the BC government plays its flute Rome is burning and increasing numbers of us face chronic situations of housing insecurity, where the rug can be pulled out from under us at any time.