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?

Belleville may soon have a program in its downtown helping the homeless and those with mental health or addiction challenges.

Wednesday’s virtual meeting of the Hastings County Community and Human Resources committee heard a staff report.

It indicates the main streets of the downtown district in Belleville are a refuge to many individuals with visible mental health and addictions challenges.

It says there are insufficient mobile resources to provide outreach support to this group of individuals on a day-to-day basis, which leads to many disturbances for local businesses and patrons.

A group of Lowertown residents are raising concerns about the opening of an emergency COVID-19 isolation centre for homeless people nearby, saying they are worried about the centre’s potential impact on the neighbourhood, as well as the lack of communication and consultation.

Situated inside the Patro d’Ottawa on Cobourg Street, the temporary shelter has 100 beds for single people who would normally be living in a downtown shelter, but who have been forced to leave the shelter to quarantine for anywhere between 10 and 14 days because they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

Nearby residents say they only learned about the the isolation centre after it was up and running, and they worry the location is too close to three schools.

Toronto’s largest homeless shelter is in the midst of a significant COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the most recent Toronto Public Health (TPH) data from Feb. 2, there are 27 confirmed cases at Seaton House, which houses single men experiencing homelessness.

This number includes both residents and staff of the George Street shelter, which will soon be redeveloped as part of a new multi-purpose campus that will include an emergency shelter, transitional and affordable housing options, a long-term care home and a community service hub for both clients and people from the surrounding area.

Advocates say homeless people should get priority to COVID-19 vaccines given how at risk they are to the virus and how much more likely they are to get severely ill if infected.

“We as a society set the moral tone by who we provide supports for and who we prioritize,” says a position statement released Wednesday by two national groups who work with street populations.

“It’s imperative that we include the most vulnerable who can benefit most from the protection afforded by COVID vaccination.”

Food insecurity in the region appears to be spiking during the state of emergency, with York Region Food Bank seeing a 50 per cent increase in first-time food bank users since it began.

That figure is expected to increase as more people are impacted by job losses, reduced income or illness, according to a news release.

“When the first pandemic wave hit, it was a bit chaotic. We had never experienced this before, and we didn’t know what to expect. As the days went by and things started to look worse, there was a definite increase across our network of the number of people experiencing hunger,” Alex Bilotta, the food bank’s founder and CEO, said.

Bruce Boyko warms his hands above a portable propane heater, sitting on the ledge outside the Guelph Concert Theatre at the top of Wyndham Street. For now, this spot is home.

It’s -10 C outside as the sun sits high in the sky, -20 with the windchill, though the wind is partially blocked. He’s wearing a couple of winter coats and a thick winter hat as his hands hover over the heater and his breath crystallizes in the air.

Next to him is a cardboard refrigerator box turned on its side, with shoelaces strung across the inside to hold the sides up straight … or reasonably so. The bottom of the box is open so he can crawl in and out, with a piece of removable cardboard covering the opening and a small pole to hold the box open.

This is where he sleeps.