For a moment this spring it seemed as if the COVID-19 crisis might lead governments to ease the relentless cycle of displacement of homeless people from the parks, streets, ravines and underpasses of Canadian cities. Some made efforts to secure housing where homeless people could follow COVID-19 guidelines. Others, including in Edmonton, Toronto, and Victoria announced suspensions of evictions of some homeless camps during the emergency.

But the respite was short-lived. Edmonton and Toronto resumed clearances in May. British Columbia cleared Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver and the Topaz and Pandora camps in Victoria. Other camps were cleared from Winnipeg to Barrie, Ontario.

Back in April, U of T Scarborough sociology professor Joseph Hermer observed a trend that is now playing out on Toronto’s streets: how the spread of COVID-19 would impact the homeless, and the way that they are policed in public spaces.

Several worrying factors impacted their susceptibility: an inadequate shelter system, where social distancing has been a challenge, their increased likelihood to suffer from underlying health conditions, and the policing of the homeless, where many of the normal activities that this population undertake to stay alive are criminalized across Canada.

“Visible minorities and Indigenous Peoples are vastly over-represented in the homeless population,” explains Hermer. “Homelessness is a very visible expression of profound inequality and prejudice.”

The mayor of Sarnia thinks it’s time to take another look at a guaranteed annual income, this time on a national scale.

Ontario had previously experimented with the Basic Income Pilot program, but later cancelled it.

Now, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) already running, the time has come to look at doing it on a national scale and not just for a time of crisis such as the current pandemic.

“I do think if you look at the fact you [don’t] want to leave a segment of society just dog paddling in life and getting no place, and no ability to get to a better place —then it’s worth trying on specific targeted groups to see if it works,” he said.

During this COVID 19 Pandemic, Justin Trudeau should seize this moment and take an initiative to implement new socially progressive programs, like a universal basic income and a national pharmacare program. Our country needs a Franklin Delano Roosevelt “New Deal” Approach to some of our country’s socioeconomic ills! Out of the Great Depression (1929 – 1939) and the Second World War (1939 – 1945) came Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, and in Canada’s case, Family Allowance (or the “Baby Bonus”). Many of our European allies implemented universal public medicare (including pharmacare) systems in their respective countries long before Canada did. Now, hard times call for desperate measures!

If you want to know what food insecurity is, Paul Taylor is the man to answer that question. He is the executive director of FoodShare, a Toronto-based non-profit that advocates that everyone have access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food. His personal experience has informed his life’s work: he was raised by a single mother on Ontario’s welfare system. He has worked as a teacher, in a Toronto homeless youth shelter and the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. We chatted with Paul about what food insecurity is, the link between racism and food insecurity and how Canadians can take action.

One in seven Canadians lived in a household where there was food insecurity in April and those living with children are more likely to be impacted from food insecurity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from Statistics Canada.

The survey, which was part of the Canadian Perspectives Survey Series (CPSS), collected data from May 4 to 10 from 4,600 respondents in all 10 provinces. Of the participants, 14.6 per cent indicated that they lived in a household where there was food insecurity in the past 30 days.

The survey was based on a scale of six “food experiences” ranging from food not lasting until there was money to buy more, to going hungry because there was not enough money for food. Most Canadians reported only one negative experience, but 2 per cent reported the most severe food insecurity, with five or all six experiences reported.

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.