A week or so before the election, a couple of letters in this paper were highly critical of Ronna-Rae Leonard. I won’t go into detail about their specific arguments although they were ridiculous. To suggest that Ronna-Rae Leonard would have wanted residents of Maple Pool thrown out into the street is ludicrous, and to say that she and the Housing Task Force she chaired from 2011 to 2015 did nothing for the homeless because it “didn’t provide one pair of mittens, bowl of soup, pair of socks or shelter for one needy or homeless person,” is misguided. The role of the Task Force was to promote badly needed social housing, and it did that. It wasn’t created to build housing but to find solutions to the homelessness problem. Studies were conducted and solutions put forward, but there was no political will to make anything happen.
There is room for charity and temporary shelters to help the homeless. The problem is that some people see charity and volunteerism as the only way to help the poor. While there are many very well-meaning people who dedicate their time and money to helping out, the problem persists. There are no easy solutions to the homelessness problem but there is a model that has had a great deal of success. It’s called “Housing First.”
In order to make the Housing First model work, we have to rid ourselves of our misconceptions about why people become homeless and who the homeless are. We must understand that providing social housing rather than charity is critical in heading off human misery, and the high costs of health care and policing associated with homelessness. We need the political will to make it happen.