The concept of a basic income – combining several existing income and social supports into a single, income-tested but otherwise unconditional cash benefit – has been debated for more than 200 years. It has drawn support, and criticism, from across the political spectrum, attacked or praised as either utopian socialism or minimal-state libertarianism. But has the whole debate just been settled?

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of Vancouver’s annual homeless count.

A memo obtained by Glacier Media that was emailed Monday to city council and staff cited challenges related to social distancing, concerns about transmission of COVID-19 and mobilizing several hundred volunteers as reasons for cancellation.

“As a result of public health orders related to the pandemic, the training and deployment of volunteers and activities related to carrying out the count this March is not possible,” said the memo from Sandra Singh, the city’s general manager of arts, culture and community services.

The icy weather in the Okanagan prompted the Penticton and District Society for Community Living (PDSCL) to open up a temporary emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness to keep warm, but it is only open at night and is already overflowing.

The Church of Nazarene on Jermyn Avenue is being used as an extreme weather response shelter to bring people in from the frigid temperature.

“For this cold snap, we have 10 to 20 beds or so set up at the Church of Nazarene,” Tony Laing, the CEO of PDSCL said adding that it was in response to temperatures dipping below -10 C at night.

“I would not be alive if I didn’t have a place to stay right now,” said Vince Bajer, a sobering admission from someone who is experiencing homelessness in Kelowna.

Bejar is staying at the former Daily Courier newspaper building, which has been transformed into a winter shelter.

“I hear there’s more room available for people, I’m just thankful I have a place to stay right now,” Bajer said.

The cold snap is squeezing capacity at Kamloops’s homeless shelters which are all now full, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

To meet the growing demand, a temporary shelter is opening tonight at the Memorial Arena with another 50 beds in addition to the 110 that are currently occupied.

“(We’re) hearing many people are going to the emergency room at the hospital, have no place to go,” CMHA Kamloops interim executive director Alfred Achoba says.

As an advocate for basic income, I am disappointed that the BC Government’s expert panel on basic income did not recommend a livable basic income guarantee (BIG) that would provide income security for all people living in poverty in BC, regardless of their work status. The report unfortunately sets up a basic income as an “either/or” proposition, instead of a “yes/and” one. The panel rejects a BIG and makes 65 recommendations on how to fix existing supports and services.

Tina Dawson has become a community leader at the parking lot encampment next to Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park. Dawson has only been homeless herself for nine months.

Yet Dawson says she won’t be signing up when the Save-On-Foods arena shelter a block away reopens March 1.

“I can tell you not one of these people here want to move in there,” she said.

“It’s inside a place that’s being monitored and controlled and you don’t feel the safety of having people we know as our neighbours.”