Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homelessness in Canada

Edmonton is carrying out its annual count of the homeless, that is of rough sleepers or people in temporary shelters - a much narrower definition of homelessness than in the UK. The last time the count was done was in 2008 when there were 3078. It is expected that the figure will be higher this time. Edmonton has a total population of less than 1,000,000. Those homeless figures will be repeated in every city in Canada.

By way of comparison, there are around 500 people sleeping rough in the whole of England and between 90,000 and 100,000 households in temporary accommodation (many of whom would not be classed as homeless by the Edmonton criteria).

I often wax lyrical about the standard of Edmonton's public library service, and I could also praise the quality of their public buildings, and the funding for further education and the health service; but the fact is the priorities for public spending here shock and appal me. A large number of the people on the streets have obvious mental health or substance abuse problems or are learning disabled, and this is a city which in the winter can become the coldest place on the planet. Yes, people do freeze to death.

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