Yesterday in Vancouver, the province of British Columbia, City of Vancouve and a coalition of private citizens and businesses announced first of this kind in the history of this huge country funding for permanent housing for the homeless. No, not for the entire country. No, not for the province. Just for the city. Yet, on a Canadian scale, unprecedented. It will create in the next 5 or so years 1000 small, but modern and safe apartments for the homeless, with attached social support and services. With a full funding to the scope of over 250 million dollars. Huge amount. And badly needed. I took almost 20 years of making and arm wrestling. But it came. It will not eliminate the problem of homelessness totally ( I think nothing will,as some people do have their personal right to choose this style for their own reasons) but it might start the road to control this big social problem of every large city (and a lot of small ones, too). There was a magnanimous lack of one most important partner – the state or the federal government. A country which will host the meeting of 8 richest countries of the world and 20 of the most developed. A country that does not have a national plan for the homeless.
Yet the 3 partners were able to come up with 250 million dollars. Bravo.
250 ml. dollars. It does sound as a lot. And it is. A plan for the entire city, one of the largest in Canada. For a span of 10 years.
Now, the federal government, which did not contribute a single dollar to it, just announced a funding for another program. A program that will run in two cities, for a time of less than two weeks (it might even be less than a week, I am not sure and I dont’ feel it really matters if it is 1o or 20 days. The gathering of that 8 and 20 nations or more precisely – its leaders. The so called G-8 and G-20. That funding does not involve the huge cost of that gathering itself. It is only funding for the security of these events. For sure it wouldn’t cost nowhere near the huge amount of 250 million dollars for building and operating a housing complex for 1ooo people in one of the most expensive cities in North America. For sure the police and intelligence needed for the safety for prime ministers and presidents of few states will not cost nowhere it. It would be not only cynical and insane to pay close to 250 ml. dollars for such a thing, when the federal government cannot afford a national program for homelessness. It would be plainly morally wrong and indeed criminal.
The matter of fact is that the federal funding for the security for the meetings of G-8 and G-20 will not be near 250 ml. dollars. It would be about 1 billion dollars. No, it is not a typo: it is one billion dollars!
That would be enough to operate and start programs,as the one in Vancouver, in 4 largest Canadian cities. That’s over 4 thousand homeless people in Canada at any given moment. And thousands more who would stand a fighting chance to break away from the cycle of poverty and become productive citizens. Perhaps taxpayers. Not all of them – but thousands for sure.
These two projects, its reasons and practical results for people and country are impossible to compare. One affects lives of innumerable people living in urban centres (for homelessness does not affect only the homeless, it affects the entire neighborhood) the other mostly ceremonial and political photo opportunities. To create international policies and pacts requires years of negotiations of teams and specialists. It never happens at gatherings like that. The gatherings are just a stage for political declarations, speeches – most of it (in reality) empty words soon forgotten and overtaken by new events.
A billion dollars for the security for few days of what: 20, 50, 100 people? Indeed beyond insanity. Cynical, criminal and insulting to all taxpayers. Most of all: to all citizens. If any sitting MP (that’s Member of Parliament in Canada) of whatever political affiliation announced during the last election that he or she would support and vote for a billion dollar security bill just for one international gathering of few people it is reasonable to assume that such a candidate would never gather enough votes to sit even on a lawn in front of parliament, not to mention inside the House of Commons. That is the raping of national Treasury and we should protest it in any way possible. And it is beyond contempt.