The 2018 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count finds the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city is rising dramatically.

The biannual survey carried out by the Nanaimo Homelessness Coalition on April 18th found that the minimum number of people experiencing absolute homelessness was 335.

That compares with 174 in the previous survey done in the winter of 2016.

“Although this figure is substantially higher than the previous PiT Count in 2016, it is entirely consistent with recent observations of Nanaimo social service agency workers and the local RCMP,” reads the report’s executive summary.

On the day of the count, 55 per cent of those who completed a survey were staying in public spaces, vehicles, makeshift shelters or in places not intended for permanent human habitation.

Almost one third did not know where they would be staying on that night.

With Kawartha Lakes’ homeless shelter, A Place Called Home, at full capacity for the better part of a week, homeless people are being diverted to Peterborough or Oshawa.

Meanwhile, one of the founding volunteers of Lindsay’s food bank, Bev Gimbel, says “we’re at a crisis.”

The local food bank in Lindsay, known as Centre of Hope, is seeing an influx of desperate people this week with more people than usual dropping in for food and a place to rest. And yet that’s all the Centre of Hope can provide – food, snacks, and a place to drop in for the day.

Poverty is hard to measure. There are many aspects besides living on low income, including having disabilities or costly health problems, not being able to find decent housing, not being able to understand and communicate in an environment with increasing technological and legal complexity and being unable to find nutritious food at reasonable prices.

Still, the federal government has embarked on formulating a major poverty-reduction strategy and it would presumably like to have meaningful ways of measuring and monitoring progress toward the goal of reducing poverty in Canada – what Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has called the 3Ms.

It’s time the federal government established an official poverty line – a dollar amount of income below which a person or family would be deemed to be “poor.”

Thursday’s provincial election may represent a watershed moment for attempts to end poverty in Ontario.

My five colleagues — Gary Bloch, Laura Cattari, Debbie Douglas, Mary Marrone, Janet Reansbury and John Stapleton — and I have been part of discussion and debate, in some cases over several decades, involving government and civil society, about the desperate need for income security reform in our province. We have contributed to, supported and critiqued report after report, government proposals and specific reforms. Over the past 15 years, the focus has been mostly on incremental progress — until this spring.

The first sign of hope came with the March provincial budget. In that document, the government promised major investments in income security reform. In fact, the budget promised to implement a large portion of the early recommendations of the Income Security Roadmap.

Ontario has a two-speed economy: Toronto and Ottawa are creating employment and opportunity, while the rest of the province is, on average, seeing stagnant employment growth. This is a difficult but not impossible problem to solve — and failing to solve it would have significant economic and political consequences.

There are real differences between Toronto/Ottawa and the rest of the province. One is that, due to their size, the two cities’ economies are more diversified than those elsewhere in the province. Our two regions — Toronto/Ottawa and the rest of Ontario — are roughly the same size when it comes to population and employment numbers. In October 2002, an estimated 3,045,700 people worked in Toronto and Ottawa, while 3,044,900 worked in the rest of the province. Data on employment by CMA goes back to 2001; since then, Toronto and Ottawa have seen a dramatic increase in net new jobs, but the rest of the province has experienced little growth.

A 74-year-old man spent his final hours last week in a spot where he had spent much of the last years of his life: at a nook in a Vancouver Tim Hortons.

Witnesses said the man, Ted — whose last name is not known — may have been slumped at his table, unresponsive, for several hours before he was noticed.

In the city with the most expensive houses in Canada, 24-hour restaurants have become a means of survival for many people. Advocates and experts say that Ted’s death is an indictment of a system that has failed to provide shelter for the city’s most vulnerable.

“Fast-food places take the place of the shelters that we don’t have,” said longtime homeless advocate Judy Graves.

It’s an unfortunate reality of our current electoral system that political parties regularly form majority governments with only forty percent or less of the popular vote. This means Doug Ford could become Premier of Ontario on Thursday while receiving fewer votes than Andrea Horwath’s NDP. How is this perverse outcome possible, you might ask? It’s because Conservative voters are more evenly distributed across key ridings than their opponents. The NDP vote is more concentrated in certain places. This could very well allow Ford to garner more seats in the legislature, even though substantially more Ontarians vote for the NDP.

We cannot allow this to happen.