Homelessness in TorontoA social issue that is important to me is homelessness in Toronto. Toronto’s homeless population is continuing to grow. According to the most recent interim findings of the city’s Street Needs Assessment, 5,219 people were homeless in 2013.This issue is important to citizens due to the multitude of sub-issues that come with homelessness. Homelessness comes at an extremely high cost to individuals, communities and systems of care. In Ontario, 374, 230 people visited a food bank in March 2009. To prevent starvation, stealing food becomes a last resort. In cold and rainy weather, stealing clothing may become a last resort. This leads to taxpayers having to pay, in the form of higher retail prices. Homeless people are more likely to suffer medical complications caused by the weather, pollution, etc due to housing instability. Thus, emergency rooms, crisis response and public safety systems are needed by homeless people. Homelessness has an economic impact on society. Homelessness costs Canadians $7 billion per year in emergency shelters, social services, criminal justice and other costs. The funding comes from taxpayer dollars and donations. Most of these programs are unfunded, meaning only the bare minimum can be offered. This means that many homeless people need alternate methods of getting their basic needs. This results in recycling or panhandling, which leads to complaints to the government to “do something about the homeless.” The city then needs to prohibit these activities by adopting stricter laws. When local law enforcement catch violators, they have to stop, check the person’s ID, and write a ticket. It then has to go through the local court system, which costs more money. Communities will save money by providing those experiencing homelessness with permanent supportive housing.I’m particularly interested in this issue on account that it is unbelievably heart-wrenching to be cognizant of the fact that among the countless homeless people in Toronto, many are youth around my age! I reflect on this an immense amount because I get to wake up in a warm bed, every day with a roof above my head knowing that there is going to be food on the table, and at the end of the day, I have a place to call home no matter what. However, there is countless youth in my own city that doesn’t. I am a youth who believes that there should be more being done about homeless youth. Youth homelessness is another sub-issue of homelessness that is difficult to deal with. Across Toronto, vulnerable youth find themselves couch-surfing, in shelters, in squats or on the street. Most homeless youth experienced abuse and childhood trauma and left or were forced out of their homes. Running to the streets leads to a dangerous and often deadly path for youth. Since they are desperate and alone, they are easy prey to those who lure them into drugs, sex trafficking, and gangs, a few more sub-issues of homelessness. They can’t move forward with their lives because with no fixed address, regular meals, clean clothes or showers, it’s nearly impossible to attend school or get a job. This can also lead to immense issues with self-worth and self-confidence. Mental health issues are another sub-issue when it comes to homelessness. Depression rates are over 10 times higher in the homeless population. Psychological issues such as complex trauma, substance misuse and social exclusion are not out of the regular. This can lead to suicide, adding on to the already immense epidemic of homeless deaths.Homeless deaths are another sub-issue of homelessness. At least 70 homeless people have died in Toronto in the first nine months of this year, due to a multitude of reasons. At the local level, to get a better estimate of the number of deaths, identify year to year, seasonal, geographic and other trends, Toronto Public Health (TPH) is tracking the deaths of homeless people. Data is being collected for homeless people that die while living in shelters, on the street, or at other locations in Toronto.Toronto is also attempting to provide shelter for those without a home. Toronto has over 4,100 permanent emergency shelter beds. Programs such as Housing first and Streets to Homes acknowledge the importance of stable, appropriate, permanent, and affordable housing that is safe.On a provincial level, over three years $90 million will be invested by the provincial government to help the city deal with homelessness. There are also programs, such as Home for Good which is focused on chronic homelessness. The federal government’s Economic Action Plan 2013 marked a significant change in the way we tackle homelessness in this country, placing a strong emphasis on the “housing-first” approach. Canada, we conducted the largest randomized controlled trial of its kind in the world on homelessness by comparing housing first to services, as usual, indicating that HF is more effective. For every two government dollars invested in the HF program, one dollar was saved.On an international level, homelessness is being combated by taking multiple significant steps. These include creating jobs, raising the minimum wage, supporting pay equity, providing paid leave and paid sick days, and investing in affordable child care and education of high quality. A current policy that I believe is beneficial is the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy. Ontario is taking action by making investments to actualize the ideality of a province where every person has an affordable, suitable and sufficient home that can provide the foundation to attain employment, raising a family and form strong communities. Ontario passed the Promoting Affordable Housing Act on December 6, 2016. This is a well established, clear-cut, and well-meaning policy that I affirm is leading us in the right direction to overcome homelessness. A policy that I do not believe is effective is the government criminalizing activities of the homeless, such as panhandling, and sleeping on sidewalks. This policy is poorly excogitated. If these people had the resources to pay fines for these activities, they would not subject themselves to these activities in the first place. This is utterly inhumane and impractical. What should be done instead is helping them acquire stable housing. This lets them stay off the street while being safer and healthier. Another recommendation is to provide them with stable jobs. This allows them to contribute to society. This is beneficial to them, the community, and the government. In conclusion, homelessness in Toronto is a social issue that is continuing to grow and affects an immense amount of people in a multitude of ways. It affects the homeless themselves, the community around them, and the government. It comes with economic burdens, starvation, youth homelessness, mental health issues, homeless deaths, and much more. This is why homelessness in Toronto is an important issue to me. 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