The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit CERB put cash in people’s hands, quickly, when COVID-19 hit. It was a smart and remarkable achievement. It looked like the beginnings of a basic income — but it wasn’t quite. It left out people who needed it. It got complicated with conditions, changes, interactions with other emergency benefits, and with provincial and territorial regimes. It confused applicants and recipients as their circumstances changed.

Now, CERB repayment demands are causing hardship, and while amnesty is needed that’s only a temporary reprieve, for some. The pandemic’s viral and economic toll is still rising. Long-standing inequalities and poverty are deepening and there’s no vaccine for that. If Canada hopes to withstand this crisis and “build back better” we need concrete government action on the path to a basic income. The human consequences of inaction are almost unthinkable.

A COVID-19 outbreak at an Ottawa women’s shelter was linked to two long-term care workers who were staying at the facility because their income couldn’t cover their rent, an independent commission has heard.

Dr. Jeff Turnbull, the medical director of Ottawa Inner City Health, described the situation in his testimony before the Long Term Care COVID-19 Commission in mid-December. The commission’s hearings aren’t open to the public but transcripts are typically posted online days later.

Turnbull recalled a massive rush to sanitize shelters, train staff on COVID-19 protocols and obtain personal protective equipment as the pandemic tightened its grip on the province last winter, noting the system did not have a pre-existing plan to respond to a crisis of this nature.

City council is asking us to help figure out what to do about homelessness in Greater Sudbury. The city’s website shows an embarrassment of riches when it comes to studies done on the subject of homelessness. There are seven reports listed from 2000 to 2003. Did they learn nothing from these reports?

What I learned just from looking at the list is that homelessness is not new. So, why does the city treat it like it’s an aberration?

When two women living in an Ottawa homeless shelter tested positive for COVID-19 last spring causing an outbreak, Dr. Jeff Turnbull couldn’t understand how they had become infected.

But then he learned that, although they slept at the shelter each night, the homeless women worked as personal support workers during the day in long-term care homes.

“It turns out that they live in a shelter, but they work outside of the shelter. They just can’t earn enough money to afford Ottawa’s rental circumstances,” Turnbull, the medical director of Inner City Health, told Ontario’s Long Term Care Commission last month.

A group that advocates on behalf of homeless people in Gatineau, Que., is calling for a moratorium on ticketing near that city’s shelters and warming centres during Quebec’s provincewide curfew.

The overnight curfew, which is being introduced to help curb rising COVID-19 rates in the province, comes into effect Saturday. Anyone caught outside between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. can face a fine ranging from $1,000 to $6,000, with very few exceptions.

Homelessness is not one of them, and that concerns advocates.

If Laura goes to sleep in a homeless shelter, she could wake up convulsing and die.

This isn’t hyperbole. It’s alcohol withdrawal, which can happen to your body when you’ve had a substance dependency for long enough.

So Laura (not her real name) sleeps at a camp in the heart of Montreal’s Milton-Parc district, where she can manage her alcohol intake. But as of Saturday, it will be illegal for her to be outside after 8 p.m. Under the terms of a province-wide curfew imposed by the Coalition Avenir Québec government, she’ll be subject to a fine of between $1,000 and $6,000 if she is caught outside.

There’s another reason she’s scared to go inside. After an outbreak in Montreal’s shelter system, over 100 people have tested positive for COVID-19. About half of them are Indigenous and many among them already have severe respiratory problems.

Some neighbours in middle-class homes next to a new homeless shelter in London say they’re noting an uptick in drug use and crime.

The concerns were sent by email to CTV News one day after a news story about the success of the shelter.

The shelter, comprised of converted construction trailers, is located in the parking lot of the T-Building on Elizabeth Street.