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CANDIDATES Q and A: How do we solve homelessness?

Candidates present ways the province can help reduce poverty and end homelessness
tiny homes for homeless
The Better Tent City project in Kitchener provides tiny homes to people in the city experiencing homelessness.

Over the next few days, CambridgeToday will continue its series of articles in which candidates in the Kitchener South-Hespeler and Cambridge ridings explain how they will address key issues if they are successful in the upcoming election.

We have asked each candidate to provide answers to 10 questions which will then be shared with our readers, one at a time, in the days leading up to the election.

In Cambridge there are five candidates, including incumbent Belinda Karahalios. 

In Kitchener South-Hespeler, which does not have an incumbent in the running, there are six candidates. 

Candidates whose answers do not appear below did not respond to our request.

Here is our eighth question of candidates:

Homelessness and dependency on community organizations such as food banks have grown during the pandemic, though the issues are not new. How would you address those issues if elected?

Brian Riddell - PC - Cambridge

Rebuilding Ontario’s economy, creating good paying jobs through skills training and investing in key infrastructure, and increasing the minimum wage.

Carla Johnson - Green - Cambridge

The many costs of living have risen faster than most of our systems have kept up with. The Green Party of Ontario has been loudly calling to double the rates for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

The GPO will do the following:

Implement a Basic Income and end poverty

• Phase in a Basic Income, with the first step being to double ODSP and Ontario Works rates and reduce aggressive clawbacks.

• Eliminate any unnecessary red tape, reporting requirements, and other barriers typically faced by those needing financial support.

• Maintain all existing supplementary supports that are available with current income assistance programs.

• Include meaningful consultation with people who have lived experience with poverty and existing social assistance programs in the design of all programs and services aimed at client-centred approaches for reducing poverty.

• Annually report disaggregated data on the proportion of the population that experiences chronic homelessness, unmet health needs, food insecurity, lack of literacy, and low-paid work.

• Prohibit “payday” lending that takes advantage of those facing financial hardship as a violation of anti-racketeering laws, and work with credit unions to develop a low-cost, small loan alternative to help people get out of debt.

Marjorie Knight - NDP - Cambridge

Everyone in Ontario deserves dignity and the chance to live their best life. To do that we need to work to lift everyone in our community out of poverty. This means investing in the services in our community that help people in times of need, and putting more money towards supporting them. 

It is shameful that in a province as rich as Ontario that so many people in our community are living in poverty. 

As your MPP I will champion more funding and innovative solutions to ensure that everyone in our community has what they need to live a good life. That includes more funding community organizations helping those in need, and more investments in more affordable housing. I will work to support local farmers and food entrepreneurs to help them become more cost effective. In turn this will make affordable fresh, healthy food more accessible to families in our community.

An Ontario NDP government will fix social assistance and establish a system that raises people out of poverty no later than the end of our first term. We will increase OW and OSDP rates and invest in supports that lift every recipient out of poverty.

We commit to an immediate increase to OW and ODSP rates by 20 per cent and legislate that raises must, at minimum, be indexed to inflation, and then work to overhaul Ontario’s broken social assistance system so that it works to help Ontarians.

Belinda Karahalios - New Blue - Cambridge

Thanks for the Ford PC government, Ontario had the most had longest lockdowns of any jurisdiction in North America. This did nothing to stop COVID-19 but it did result in people losing their businesses and their jobs and most Ontarians had less disposable income available to give to charitable causes and to support those in need.

We need to grow an economy that is not dependent on government funding. And we need to ensure government spending is focussed on the vulnerable in society not wasted on government programs driven by political ideology or based on whether you have a connection at Queen’s Park.

The Ford PC government found $500 million to lend the Ontario Lottery Gaming Commission and hundreds of millions more to hand out to corporations to create industries that rely entirely on government subsidies rather than spending on those in need.

Surekha Shenoy - Liberal - Cambridge

I am a volunteer with the Trinity Community Table in Cambridge. I have observed the challenges faced by the homeless in my community. If elected I would support the Liberal policies to support the homeless population.

We’ll provide municipalities and housing support providers with $100 million per year to promote a ‘Housing First’ approach to ending chronic homelessness that will quickly move people into independent, permanent housing with comprehensive supports.

We’ll fund new emergency shelter beds and drastically improve the condition of existing shelters so that there are safe and respectable options to those who need them. We’ll also renovate older shelters as long-term residences and supportive housing units as people are effectively transitioned into stable housing.

Finally, we’ll relaunch the homelessness census that the Ford Conservatives scrapped to better understand people’s comprehensive housing needs and issues. We have a plan for economic dignity that will replace the minimum wage with a regional living wage starting at $16.

For workers and their families looking for help achieving economic dignity, the choice is clear: The Liberal plan to boost their pay and make life more affordable, or the Ford Conservative track record of making life harder and less secure.

David Weber - Green - Kitchener South-Hespeler

We need a Universal Basic Income in order to alleviate extreme poverty.

Until politicians do what is necessary to fix the system which allows the very wealthy to prosper and the most vulnerable to become more so, we all need to step up and help organizations like the food banks.

Understanding the hardships people are experiencing, I will donate 10 per cent of my MPP salary to the Cambridge Food Bank.

Joanne Weston - NDP - Kitchener South-Hespeler

The pandemic has shown us just how close people live to the edge of housing instability. Driving through our community we see more and more people without homes. Everyone deserves a good, stable place to call home – a place they can afford.  

The current government recently rewrote the growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to encourage more costly sprawl-oriented development on prime farmland, while discouraging more efficient, affordable and sustainable “missing middle” development within existing communities. The Auditor General also found that the Ford government “has no plan to reduce or prevent homelessness.”

Renters shouldn’t have to live in fear of the landlord raising the rent, or using the government’s loopholes to throw renters out in order to hike the rent for the next tenants. A part of the NDP plan is to bring back rent control so landlords can’t hike prices in between tenants, and regulate short-term rentals so they don’t drive up market prices. 

The NDP’s housing platform, Homes You Can Afford, is a comprehensive plan tackling the housing crisis from multiple angles. We’ll get to work on the job of ending homelessness and giving more people safe and stable housing options. We’ll build 100,000 new affordable homes and extend the lifespan of 260,000 existing homes. We’ll build 60,000 supportive housing units.

We’ll restore the goal of ending chronic homelessness within 10 years. We’ll also work with municipal service managers to properly fund housing and homelessness prevention programs.