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Homelessness critically impacts this area of our city more than in other parts of our city. The homeless accumulate here because in is near services that they need, and it allows them easy access to the vises they might want. Their presence here is associated with vandalism, and petty crime; but, more importantly, they make the street unattractive to visitors who might otherwise patronize establishments here. The productivity of this area is mostly characterized by retail with some offices, and the effect of the homeless has a negative impact.

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Victoria Crescent is the most affected by social issues which disrupt the commercial fabric of this area. This might be an appropriate time to address some social issues related to homeless people on the streets. It’s important to note that any improvements to this area will have very little economic benefit if the issues related to transients and homelessness are not addressed.

I have no expertise related to social issues, but I do believe finding solutions that work in other cities would a first step towards resolving the tensions between those that live on the streets and the merchants and residents who work in the area. I would recommend reading San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities a book by Michael Shellenberger. Michael spent many years working as a volunteer on the streets of San Fransisco trying to deal with people who are homeless, drug addicted and in extreme poverty. He was frustrated with the fact that the efforts of well meaning people didn't actually do much, so he started researching the programs in European cities to find which where the most effective. 

As I understand it, the best solutions address homelessness in a tiered way with five types of housing: jail, shelters, assisted housing, affordable housing, and market housing. Transients who break the law, go to jail and they lose their stuff. Transients who don’t break the law are transported to a shelter along with their stuff (including pets). At the shelter these people can be evaluated to determine if they are capable of living in a situation where they can get treated for illness or addition if they want to. If they don’t want treatment they remain at the shelter unless they break the law. If they break the law they go to jail and they lose their stuff. If they make an effort to receive treatment they can be moved to a house or a home where special help is provided nearby. They would be moved away from places and people that would enable them to continue their harmful lifestyle. If they are not sick or addicted and they have an income they can be moved to affordable housing. Affordable housing would be very much like market value housing except that it is assigned based on need and availability. Those in affordable housing might choose to live in some other location if their income allows it. Then the market would be able to provide accommodation. This system does not allow people to live or loiter on the streets or in public spaces without permission, it does not enable bad behaviour and it does not provide housing to individuals who are not making an effort to lead more productive lives.

The truth is there is little that the city can do to address social issues, it can do a more effective job of lobbying the province, overcoming NIMBYism and effective planning that will allow the city to determine the most effective application of provincial resources. While the study area would not be able to provide shelters, or treatment centers, it could provide some assisted rental accommodation and some market value accommodation provided minimum parking requirements are waved, building to the property line is allowed and, perhaps, air over sidewalks and some streets is allow to be developed. These variances would provide incentives for development in the area. More people living in this area would support business in the downtown, while streets free of transients would encourage visitors to stay longer.


We seek to address the issues and opportunities that present themselves there are some obstacles that must be overcome. The most immediate issue is a homeless population living on the streets and in open spaces. While their long term health and their lives are at risk, the homeless also have a negative impact on the economy of this area.

Addressing this issue is requires a sensitivity to three views that collude to undermine an effective effort to remove people from living  in public spaces:

      1)  The homeless don't deserve our help - this view is persists even among those who are homeless. The homeless are there because
           of poor choices they have made. This assumes that the homeless have had a power to choose that is, in fact, not often available to
           them. More often than not homelessness is the result of trauma inflicted on an individual who was powerless, and the view that this person got
           what he or she deserved really amounts to blaming the victim. 


      2) The homeless must be contrite before we can help them - They must make a sincere effort to overcome addiction, mental health
           issues and get a job before we give them assistance. For the poor this contrition requires a shame and despair that exacerbates the
           challenges of overcoming the barriers of re-entry into productive society.

      3)  NIMBYism - poverty is an inevitable consequence of our system. Much like industrial pollution, poverty it is bad; and we should be

           able to zone it to a part of the city where it minimizes its effect on the rest of us. Dehumanizing the homeless also exacerbates the

           challenges of overcoming the barriers of re-entry into productive society.

All three views present effective barriers to caring for the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised. Often these views ignore the costs associated with denying the poor with places to live. There have been many studies that suggest that the costs associated with untreated homelessness are much greater than the cost of providing the homeless with suitable shelter, and I think we must plan for treating homelessness based on this evidence. 

A more constructive approach to homelessness might also allow us to deal more effectively with other issues associated with crime, poverty, poor mental and physical heath and addiction.


Let's be clear; homelessness is the result of poverty. Lot's of people who are addicted, who have mental health issues or have criminal intentions are wealthy enough to afford homes. Very few of these people choose to give up their homes and live in public spaces. Homelessness is living with all the challenges and risks associated with being poor. Providing people with shelter is the first step in reducing those challenges and risks. To start, we need to provide barrier free shelter to everyone who needs it, and from there, the homeless can begin the long hard effort of overcoming poverty.​

Don't diminish or understate the effort and time required to overcome poverty. It is a long uphill climb with little chance of success. Reducing the barriers to solvency and security would help many stay alive long enough to achieve that success. That said, we can't expect everyone to succeed. On that long journey out of poverty many get stuck and just can't climb any further. We can't give up on these people either. They still need a safe place to stay, an opportunity to fit in, and maybe an opportunity to contribute something positive. Everybody matters and it's time we created a social safety net that was based on that proposition.


The study area has had a long history of supporting the less productive parts of the community, and attracting those who are isolated from economic development. For a long time Victoria Crescent was the de facto red light district. Now while the prostitutes have moved on, open drug use is common, sleeping on the streets at all times of the day and night is everywhere, petty theft and intentional property damage is a regular occurrence, and there is a relentless gauntlet of people begging for money. I know I sound heartless, but the truth is the homeless are not good for business. While I do have a concern for the health and wellbeing of the homeless, we cannot improve the retail and commercial part of our downtown without effectively addressing the issues related to homelessness. 

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