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Toronto News

Counting the homeless

by arthur Weinreb, associate Editor,
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Toronto City Council is going to decide whether or not to count the city’s homeless. If the taking of the count is approved, city employees, social agencies and volunteers will undertake the task in November when more homeless will be making use of shelters instead of sleeping outdoors. In addition to solely counting the bodies, the homeless will be asked a series of questions that the city hopes will allow them to better address their needs.

To count or not to count should be a no-brainer. In this statistics-laden world, we count everything. No government would ever think of allocating money for building schools without knowing how many students would make use of the new facilities. It is only common sense. Other major cities that have made real attempts to help the homeless (as opposed to Toronto that just likes to throw money at the problem) have only done so after knowing the extent of the problem that they were dealing with.

Of course there are the usual suspects who are against the count, namely the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC). Cathy Crowe of TDRC said there are so many homeless on the street that their problems can be taken care of without knowing how many homeless there actually are. Crowe doesn’t even attempt to hide her views that the main issue is obvious not homelessness; rather it is the redistribution of wealth from the "rich" to the homeless rather than an effort to get the homeless off of the streets. Karl would be so proud of Nurse Crowe.

Michael Shapcott, also of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee at least tried to come up with a reason not to count the homeless. according to Shapcott, many of the homeless are hidden away so any figure that is arrived at will not be accurate. Nice try Mikey but there are two arguments against that logic. Firstly if every single person had to be counted we would never count anything. Even when the census is taken, not every single person in the country is accounted for. Going back to the school example, when deciding how many students will be in the school system cannot take into account those who move to an area from other countries or other parts of Canada or those that move out of a particular school district. There can never be a count that is 100 per cent accurate. Secondly, if there are homeless that are so hidden away that they cannot be found to count or question in order to help, then they will not be able to benefit from any program or solution that result from the count. It is therefore not necessary to include such people.

The real reason that those in the poverty industry do not want the homeless counted is that it is simply bad for business. To those people who live or work in the downtown care and constantly have to step over or around those who are sleeping on the sidewalks, the impression is formed that there are more homeless on the streets than there actually are. and that’s the way those in the poverty industry want to keep it. although many homeless people do not resort to the shelter system, according to the city of Toronto, a little over 3,000 people take advantage of such shelters. The actual number of homeless persons is likely to be far less than those in the TDRC or the Ontario Coalition against Poverty would like us to believe. after all the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee needs "disasters" in order to justify their existence. anything that shows that the number of homeless is less, or yikes, that some of the homeless can be helped to get off the streets, would be counterproductive to the whole being of those groups. We need the count to come up with an accurate figure and not rely on those who benefit from those who live on the streets.

Knowing how many homeless people there are in the city will require Toronto City Council to be held more accountable for the money that they are now simply throwing at the problem; something that David Miller and the leftists on council will resist. The last thing that these politicians want to see is the amount of money spent on the homeless divided by their numbers and the conclusion reached that the taxpayers could save money if they bought them all condos. The poverty activists and their sympathizers have no real desire to help the homeless get the help they need to get them off the street and knowing how many of them there are is a logical first step in dealing with the problem of homelessness.

No one should hold their breath waiting for this particular council to do a count.

Canada Free Press, CFP Editor Judi McLeod