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LETTER: Homeless can’t be blamed for inadequate support for seniors

Often using simplistic logic for complex concepts draws incorrect conclusions. Such is the case with the letter to the editor under the headline “Put homeless to work” in the Oct. 14 Goldstream Gazette.

Inadequate payments to seniors via monthly OAS and GIS supplements are unacceptable, but if those payments are their only income, seniors are not paying to support homeless people, because their incomes taxes are nearly zero.

The writer goes on to claim that an unhoused person in Vancouver costs about $52,000 annually. However, that $52,000 includes costs of administration, social workers, emergency shelter beds (including staffing, property costs, furnishings, utilities), hospital beds and other medical expenses, addiction and metal health services, possibly incarceration, police, court and other support services. In most cities across Canada, these amounts range between $133,000 for a high-demand individual, down to rental supplements of about $8,500 annually, for often unstable housing. The $20,000 the writer claims some seniors receive does not include any of the hidden costs.

To the writer’s credit, they give a pass to “people with disabilities, mental disorders, etc.” but removing those individuals from the $52,000 average, would vastly shrink that number. Street Health Toronto found that 55 per cent of people experiencing homelessness had a serious health condition (including mental illness), and of those, 63 per cent had more than one. Another 16 per cent have learning disabilities. And those numbers may not include people with domestic, sexual, or physical trauma, or undisclosed substance abuse. Involuntarily unemployed and their families, also often find themselves on the street.

Personally, I’m tired of the false trope suggesting that people who live on the streets do so voluntarily, for a free ride. I don’t think anyone who has safe alternatives would choose it. The blame for such high maintenance costs is poorly implemented government policies and social stigma, which the writer has reinforced.

Studies show that properly structured social housing can cost as little as $2,400 annually per person for the housing portion. Those so housed often become active and productive in society by working, some even paying taxes, or by volunteering.

It is the nature of humans to contribute to society, and those who don’t are often struggling with inherent obstacles often created by others.

Arthur Entlich

Metchosin

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