Solutions to Homelessness – Raising the Welfare and Minimum Wage Rates

12 06 2009


With Metro Vancouver real estate prices being extremely expensive, and a stagnant welfare rate over the years, one solution to homelessness would be to raise the welfare rates. As the Tyee newspaper wrote, “It’s cheaper — not to mention more humane — to help people pay their rent rather than rescue them after they fail.” Find out more about this solution by visiting Raise the Rates.

I wrote an e-mail to Wendy Pedersen, homeless advocate in the DTES, and here is her response:

The solutions to homelessness are systemic and require un-electing the liberals in BC and electing only people who will redistribute wealth properly.  Unless we talk about the unfairness of our current system and not work with those who are creating that system, we’ll never get anywhere.  The only feasible project you could design would be a campaign plan to raise welfare rates to $1300 a month and minimum wage to $13/hour and a national housing program that builds 30,000 or more units of housing a year like we used to in the 70’s. Homelessness would disappear. Reduce need for and cost of band-aids – outreach, treatment, emergency services etc.   The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has an end poverty campaign that you could investigate.  That’s the way to go.

This is more of a macro level solution to homelessness, driven by policy changes. I agree that in order for sustainable homelessness prevention, we need to look into the minimum wage. I believe in the living wage, because I think it is only fair that if a person is working full time, they can afford to at least support themselves, not even taking into consideration if they have children and a family. It breaks my heart to think about new immigrants or anyone who is working full time with a family, and has trouble making ends meet every month due to the low minimum wage in B.C. I was talking to Cathy Burpee, a member of the Tri Cities Society for Community Development, and her words and stories let me quickly realize how easy it is for someone to become homeless, and that we are all susceptible to it. Consider someone who works full time on the $8 per hour B.C. minimum wage (that’s $1280 per month without deducting taxes yet). If they are living from pay check to pay check with minimal savings, and were to get sick and be out of work for 6 months, could they support themselves? I could see them slipping into homelessness quite easily. Sometimes it’s shocking to think of how easy it is to become homeless.

I will consider micro level solutions in my next posts, where I will share some micro level solutions, involving individuals working together on innovative projects.