Bob Jonkman is joined by Dr. Erin Dej, Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Dr. Laura Pin, Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department, also at Wilfrid Laurier University, and Lesley Crompton, who works with the Unsheltered Campaign at the Civic Hub in Waterloo Region. They discuss the impending eviction of the people at the Victoria/Weber encampment, direct aid, government responsibilities, housing policy, and the role of academia.
The interview starts at 3m57s.
- Unsheltered Campaign: https://civichubwr.org/unsheltered-campaign/
- Social Development Centre Waterloo Region (SDCWR): https://waterlooregion.org/
Going Mobile KW: https://www.goingmobilekw.com/
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Going-Mobile-KW-114403224599872
- Instagram: @goingmobilekw
- Alliance Against Poverty: @AllianceAgainstPoverty | Facebook
- 519 Community Collective: https://www.facebook.com/groups/519communitycollective/
- My Mother Named Me Sunshine: https://www.mymothernamedmesunshine.ca/
- Dr. Erin Dej on Twitter: @ErinDej
- Dr. Laura Pin on Twitter: @lauragpin
- Lesley Crompton on Twitter: @LesleyCrompton1
A community fridge facilitates access to high quality food. It is open 24 hour a day, 7 days a week and available to anyone who needs food at any time. Donations of fresh food or non-perishable items are welcomed.
- The Kitchener Market Map
300 King Street East
- Cafe Pyrus Outpost Map
120 Roger Street
CKMS Newsroom: The KW Community Fridge is solidarity through mutual aid
Download: ckms-community-connections-2022-06-10-episode097.mp3 (50.1 MB, 52m05s, episode 097)
|Theme for CKMS Community Connections ccc
CKMS Community Connections
|The Soviet Influence
|Dr. Erin Dej introduces herself, explains the role of critical criminology in social justice issues, and begins to explain the Point-In-Time count when technical difficulties arise.
|Thieves of Joy
Thieves of Joy
|The Soviet Influence
|Dr. Erin Dej explains that what is happening in Waterloo Region with homelessness is happening across the country, and across the world. The Point-In-Time count shows a doubling of homelessness since 2018. Part of that is due to Covid, but there are a variety of factors that contribute.
Dr. Laura Pin introduces herself, and explains how Political Science influence policy action around social issues and homelessness.
Lesley Crompton introduces herself, and the Unsheltered Campaign which has been filling gaps in social services for food, water, sanitary facilities, and shelter. Talking to people with lived experience, and gathering stories. Identifying the “hidden homeless”, people who are not registered with the municipality for the shelter system. Extended families are excluded, but may have some of the same issues. The Point-In-Time count had to be done by the municipality in order to get funding from other levels of government, but contracted the service out to the assistive organizations like Unsheltered Campaign. There are issues dealing with the macro issues because so much attention is focused on the micro issues.
|Direct aid provided by eg. Unsheltered Campaign, Going Mobile KW, 519 Community Collective provide food, food ingredients, and food preparation for people who have food insecurity. It is difficult to prepare a variety of meals from supplies from the food banks; it does not provide the recipients with the choice of what to eat. There is no confirmation of need, no means testing; treating people with dignity. Are people satisfied, well-nourished? It’s difficult to say. Is this Canada’s “Social Safety Net”? Aid agencies need a “Billing For Filling” initiative, billing the state for filling the gap. This goes back to social policy, social assistance for people who have disabilities or are unemployed; the rates are not enough for people to afford shelter and food. The single rate for Ontario Works (OW) is $750/month; the Ontario Disability Support Program is about $1150/month. These are not livable, humane rates.
|At the Waterloo Region Council Meeting on Tuesday, 7 June 2022, there was a call for additional funding from higher levels of government. Housing requires intergovernmental relations and multiple levels of government to manage. But at the regional level there are lots of things that can be done, eg. a regional encampment protocol. While there is a need for additional funding, it’s not an excuse for making use of the powers the regional government has for taking action. Beyond food, there are other issues that require support. Shelter support for families in motels are the same facilities used for people displaced from encampments, but this does not work for many people. Waterloo Region contracts out these services to aid agencies. Lesley Crompton says we need an Auditor General to ensure that there is more public accountability and transparency between the Region and its service providers to ensure they’re doing what we think they’re supposed to be doing — Lesley doesn’t think they are.
|There are upwards of 50 people living at the Victoria and Weber encampment. Regional Council seemed sympathetic, but not motivated to help. Premier Doug Ford has said that for people in this situation just need to get a job. But Dr. Dej says that lots of people in this situation have a job! They’re working, but it’s not enough to pay the rent. For those without work, it is difficult to get a job. How do people without a job get a bus pass to find work? How do they get equipment like steel-toed boots needed to get a job? How can people try to get a job when they’re in an encampment, likely sleep deprived from being in the same area with 50 other people, concerned for their safety, and unable to get good rest from sleeping on the ground. And even when people on social assistance do get work, their earnings are clawed back at %50, an effective tax rate much higher than anyone else has to pay. The provincial government is cutting its sources of revenue (license plate renewal), federal government isn’t pursuing foreign holdings tax which could be used to invest in affordable housing and social housing. Dr. Pin says that at the local government level, a vacant home tax or foreign ownership tax could raise revenues for social programs. People are working part-time, employers cutting hours to minimize benefits. But even people working full-time at minimum wage earn only about $2000/month before deductions, yet rents are around $1600/month. If we took an approach of housing as a human right it shouldn’t matter whether people work full-time, part-time, if they need child care, or if people have a disability and can’t work — people still have a right to decent and affordable housing. The Region of Waterloo’s housing policy has put forward a human rights approach to housing; the federal government in its national housing strategy has also put forth a human rights approach to housing. But how can we make this a lived experience for people experiencing homelessness? Yet the Region of Waterloo Council has not advanced this into a formal motion.
|International Human Rights declaration indicate that people are not to be evicted from their housing, or even encampments. What legal ramifications are there for municipalities that break the International Human Rights declaration? Dr. Dej says that federally this has already been adopted. Yet municipalities don’t follow it. Instead, municipalities are adopting a criminalizatin of homelessness, and even a militarization of the efforts to evict people from encampments. We do have a national protocol for homeless encampments in Canada to follow for removing people from encampments developed by the former UN Rapporteur on Housing, Lailani Farha and Dr. Kaitlin Schwan that tells municipalities how to do it within our international human rights obligations. Recognize that people don’t want to live in encampments, they want to be housed. The challenge is that following this protocol takes time, but people want quick fixes. Yet removing encampments is not that quick fix people are looking for, it’s not going to end homelessness.
|Lesley Crompton points out that people need more than just housing: They need wrap-around services such as cooking instruction, a social structure, mental health issues that need to be addressed. Some shelters have zero-tolerance for violence. But what is violence? Someone speaking exteremely loudly may be considered violent, and get evicted. At motels used for housing, the staff are not able to deal with mental health issues. People need on-going supports, but some municipal housing staff think that merely providing housing is enough. What can academics do to influence the outcome of the pending eviction? Dr. Pin recognizes her privilege; people from the region connect with her in ways that they don’t connect with people on the ground. The 30 June deadline for evicting people from the Victoria and Weber encampment is artificial, the site is not needed for construction until the fall. Dr. Pin suggests we push back against that deadline to give people more time to discuss with decision makers as to what they need. Dr. Dej suggests that we push as hard as we can to make sure that the voices of the people in the encampments are the ones that are heard. She has received criticism about the Point-In-Time counts and other academic pursuits, that money spent on academic studies would be better spent on housing directly. But there is a lot of power in that data, it can convince people in ways that people might be convinced otherwise. For example, Dr. Dej has researched, rigorous data that supports Lesley’s statements on the need for ongoing services. Use this as clout to amplify the voices of people on the ground.
|How does this get to the politicians who make the decisions? Dr. Pin has been inviting councillors and staff into the Unsheltered Campaign meetings to hear what community organizations have to say on the issue. Dr. Pin’s graduate seminar prepared a report on comparative encampment protocols from a human rights perspective to provide the Region with data on how difference cities have put forward protocols to manage encampments, and providing some analysis to determine which protocols are more consistent with a human rights approach. Building relationships and capacity at the Regional level to do that kind of analysis. What can ordinary citizens do? Lesley Crompton says to take time to understand, to talk to people at the encampments, to talk to people who have been working for the people at encampments. The Region’s capacity of outreach staff is very limited, and does not give enough time to spend with the individuals at the encampments. Get involved, so you can then speak to the Region. This is an election year, and while there are no Regional or City councillors on the same page as Premier Ford, it is time for a change. CARE (Coalition Against Removing Encampments) is a grassroots organization that looks at other social justice issues, a coalition of other organizations. Dr. Pin mentions the Social Development Centre and the Civic Hub WR for people who are interested in connecting in a immediate way. Challenge the stigma that’s presented to the people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, recognize that the people in encampments are our neighbours and community members.
|Bob thanks the guests, gives the credits for CKMS Community Connections, and introduces Dreamer by Rose Brokenshire.