March 22, 2020
Home is essential to protection from COVID-19 in a pandemic. Having one, that is. Only two days ago, it was announced that a homeless person in Toronto tested positive for coronavirus.
For over two months the World Health Organization and public health experts did not utter the word homelessness in their media briefings. Similarly, the situation of displaced people such as refugees and migrants was rarely given attention. Both groups, by nature of their health vulnerabilities and required search for shelter, place them at risk for this virus.
Yet over the course of this year in Canada, an estimated 235,000 people (including families with children), will be homeless. They are our internally displaced persons. Homelessness is an unprecedented emergency, firmly established in the early 1990s when federal governments withdrew from building social housing. The problem has only worsened each year since. In Toronto, the epicentre of the homelessness crisis, advocates have been appealing for a state of emergency on homelessness to be declared by the mayor and city council since 2018.