In our fast-paced society, full of instant gratification, we tend to take many of our blessings for granted. At first glance, waking up in the morning may not seem like one. After all, it is something we do every day. I, for one, wake up every morning at six o’clock, make some coffee, get ready and go to work. Sound familiar? But, let us step back from the whirlwind of thoughts and happenings of our own lives.
For millions of people, they feel fortunate to even wake up in a bed. The circumstances may vary, whether it is the cards they were dealt or a bad decision. But a bed is something that can be made; an object simply suited for our comfort and rest. What we take for granted is where we wake up. You and I wake up in the morning, full of hope for a better and brighter day. As we leave, there is assurance in our minds… “This is my home, I will return.” This is a privilege.
As human beings, we all long for a place to call our own – a home. In this day and age, this instinctual desire has morphed. What seemed like a step in obtaining the life of one’s dreams has become a nightmare! From the homeless to frontline workers, affordable housing has become an issue, which has yet to be resolved.
Recently, my son, Kristian, read the memoir of the former New Democratic Party House Leader Libby Davies, which had been assigned as a book review essay. During his readthrough, it became clear how influential Davies’ political aspirations affected him. Every hour or so, he would come bursting through my door, spewing insight, and sharing his thoughts. What frustrated him most was the constant struggle to establish effective social and affordable housing programs. Amongst the Canadian cities, Toronto and Vancouver suffer gravely from these problems.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, housing is a human right. Yes, that is correct. It is not a “privilege”, as I originally called it. So, why is it that so many Canadians continue to suffer from the lack of affordable and available housing? Why are homeless shelters becoming places of permanent residence? I believe that the government, federal and provincial, has failed to properly address long-term solutions, preferring to place band-aids on an ongoing human rights concern.
It may not seem like it, however, this concern has been prevalent even in the present day. A few weeks ago, Premier Doug Ford announced plans to fast track construction on affordable housing around transit lines. On the surface, it seems like the Premier acted towards the cause. However, faster construction does not result in affordability. The housing market in Ontario has been nothing less than exceptionally expensive. This is nothing more than a short-term solution if you can even call it that. What is required is major policy changes, otherwise, the poorer will remain the poor.
Would we work harder to help end homelessness if we truly believed people had a right to live somewhere? We see people on the street and sometimes think they don’t deserve a home for a multitude of reasons. We might not admit that, but I think it happens. Would we say food and clothing should be withheld from people (even if they made bad choices)? Then why are we okay with denying people housing? The majority of homeless people are not homeless because of addiction or criminal behaviour. Rather, they are without housing because of unexpected financial burdens that were out of their control.
How can we expect people to turn their lives around, if they cannot afford to have something of their own? Not just for the homeless, let us look at the up and coming generations. Simply, having knowledge or being well-versed in an industry has become less important. In an experience-based job market, they traverse from job to job, seeking experience. All for what? To get their foot in the door, it requires more effort than ever before. Generational gripes aside, can we truly say it is due to the lack of effort? For them, an entry-level position in their respective industry is their dream. Which is to say, housing is the precious object they glance at, but potentially can never have.
As individuals, we must recognize the privilege to have a home of our own. But we cannot stop there. Where some may claim blindness to the truth, we must face it head on. In our times of need, others sought to provide us compassion and support. It is our time to do the same in any way we can. Whether its through providing active guidance to our future, to lobbying, it is clear something must be done.
I know the concept of ‘housing as a right’ might sound controversial and my intent is to simply put the idea in front of you, for your consideration.