New And Deadly Activist Now Calling For Homelessness Action: Winter

A man sits on pavement swaddled in a blanket and only a portion of his face visible
street saint 2 photo by Wolf94114 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
For a remarkable set of portraits of homeless individuals in winter, click here

Worldwide, prompt government pandemic action has swept people experiencing homelessness into shelter. The effectiveness of these actions has been greeted with both praise, but also surprise. After years of hair-tearing inaction amid unaffordable housing and growing homelessness, it wasn’t meant to be quite so “easy”.

True, the effectiveness of these temporary measures are in the eyes of the beholder. The Australian state of Victoria, for example, has focussed on the disappointing quarter of the people who were housed in the face of a pandemic who have either left their shelter, or been evicted for anti-social behaviour.

Disappointing? That’s one viewpoint. In light of common understanding that transitioning from homelessness to shelter is difficult and needs ongoing support, the fact that fully three-quarters of those housed are still living in their emergency shelter can be viewed as an unanticipated success, not as failure.

However, congratulations and self-congratulations for a job moderately well done under difficult circumstances — sweeping the homeless off the streets at the beginning of a pandemic — has tended to mask a growing problem. The circumstances of the pandemic response is rapidly creating new populations of people living outdoors, people who are not automatically being swept off the streets. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in shelters, job losses and fewer hours of work are all contributing.

As tent cities spring up, the health threats of the pandemic still loom while a new danger threatens: the coming harsh winter in the northern hemisphere.

What follows is an article that expresses this danger from the perspective of a single city. The danger arises for not just one but many thousands of cities in colder climates. Read more at the CBC: Toronto residents, MPP urge province to declare state of emergency on homelessness