The Parks, Forestry and Recreation department has said it will be dismantling homeless encampments in the Rosedale valley on January 7, 2020.

There is no justification for these sweeps in the midst of a deadly shortage of shelter space in the city. People are camped outside in the bitter cold because the housing crisis rages on unchecked and the City’s shelter system is overwhelmed. Conditions within these emergency centres are difficult and often unsafe because of chronic overcrowding, short-staffing and a general lack of necessary resources. The private market is such that even those able to access the housing allowance find it impossible to find a place to rent.

Forcibly dismantling homeless encampments – be they under the Gardiner or in the Rosedale valley – is nothing more than an attempt to make homelessness invisible rather than addressing the problem. In the absence of adequate shelter or housing, the encampments just rise up once again…

In Toronto and across Canada, homelessness has reached proportions that no rational and just society would tolerate and it constitutes an emergency situation. The Trump Administration, seeing levels of destitution in California that are producing social dislocation, is preparing for a brutal crackdown on the homeless. We would do well to understand how close we are in Toronto to a comparable situation. The political agenda of austerity and social cutbacks is getting worse, the extreme commodification of housing continues to drive up rents and forces people onto the streets and, globally, conditions of economic downturn are unfolding. As more and more people are rendered homeless, the kind of incarceration option that Trump favours will undoubtedly enter into the plans of the more centrist representatives of the neoliberal order.

The deficit obsession of 2010-2015 did permanent damage.

A decade ago, the world was living in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Financial markets had stabilized, but the real economy was still in terrible shape, with around 40 million European and North American workers unemployed.

Fortunately, economists had learned a lot from the experience of the Great Depression. In particular, they knew that fiscal austerity — slashing government spending in an attempt to balance the budget — is a really bad idea in a depressed economy.

Unfortunately, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic spent the first half of the 2010s doing exactly what both theory and history told them not to do. And this wrong turn on policy cast a long shadow, economically and politically. In particular, the deficit obsession of 2010-2015 helped set the stage for the current crisis of democracy.

Nearly one-third of Londoners getting off social assistance are finding work, outpacing provincial targets and bringing the caseload to a low that hasn’t been seen in years, 2019 figures show.

The number of people on Ontario Works dropped by about 10 per cent in London last year, with the welfare caseload expected to rest around 10,700 by the end of December. It’s the first time since 2013 that number dipped below 11,000.

City officials say the change is a result of staff working harder to connect people with job skills and work training programs, but one poverty expert warns the numbers don’t tell the full story.

Finding a way to bring more attainable, affordable housing to the community to try to solve the homelessness problem is top of mind for Midland council heading into 2020.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn said he believes homelessness is one of the problems underlying a lot of the issues the town is currently facing, including crime.

“There is a hopelessness that starts to settle in around people who lack shelter,” said Strathearn. “If I don’t have a roof over my head, I am in survival mode.”