As Canada starts to slowly recover from the COVID pandemic, housing and poverty experts are worried many cities will see a jump in homelessness.

A recent study conducted by a Columbia University professor estimates that homelessness could grow by as much as 45 per cent in the United States due to a COVID-induced economic downturn. Experts in Canada say there is no guarantee the homeless population will grow as quickly here as it does in the U.S., but they have no doubt it’s going to happen.

On Saturday May 30, 2020, in large red letters in the Toronto Star’s Insight section, the question is asked: “Is the time ripe for a basic income?”

Beside the headline, some supposedly provocative figures are mashed together:

“$2000 – Monthly amount of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

$151.7 billion – Total emergency spending to date including $40 billion to 8 million on CERB

$86 billion – Estimated annual cost of a basic income the last time it was looked at

$260 billion – Revised estimated deficit, $8 billion higher than last reported.”

I think what the headline and the numbers are trying to acknowledge is that, as a nation, we suddenly agreed with the idea of handing out large amounts of money to our residents who lost income because of the COVID19 crisis. We also proved that it was possible to pay out that amount of money quickly.

The City of Edmonton is beginning to remove certain homeless encampments, following concerns from residents about a decision to “pause” enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travis Boucher, a resident of Edmonton’s Boyle Street neighbourhood, said Friday that city crews cleaned up a large encampment near 105 Avenue and 96 Street the day prior.

The camp formed near the LRT tunnel and the bottle depot earlier this year and had around 15 tents with 20 to 30 residents.

Boucher said the camp has become a concern for residents of Métis Capital Housing, saying it has been been source of noise, unruly behaviour and crime. Things came to a head Thursday night, when Boucher and a group of men smoking outside were bear sprayed by a woman who they believe came from the camp.

The Great Depression of the 1930s gave us the Bank of Canada, Employment Insurance (EI) and federal equalization payments. The Great Recession of 2008 produced a revolution in monetary policy and a legacy of concern about household debt.

Will the Great Lockdown of 2020 bequeath us guaranteed universal income?

A lot of things are hard to take for granted after two months of pandemic — and one of them is food: what we eat, where it comes from, and how we get it. It’s also laid bare how intricate, interwoven and vulnerable to disruption and sudden change our food systems are. Gisèle Yasmeen, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada — a national alliance of organizations and individuals working to improve food security — discusses how the pandemic has revealed the weaknesses of our food systems, on both global and national levels.

How you feel about the idea of the government giving people free money depends a lot on where you sit on the political spectrum. For some, a universal basic income (UBI) is a sensible way to fight poverty and share prosperity while, for others, it’s an invitation to sloth and moral decay. But, until this year, it was mostly an idea that lived on the margins of the political mainstream, debated and discussed in academic circles and overlooked by almost everyone else. Then, as with so many other things, COVID-19 changed everything.