The power of a place called home: Open Letter to the community

opinionviolet 100x100By Eric Doubt,

March 4th, 2020


If you change the name Halton Hills to Burlington this Open Letter could have been written for Burlington as well.

In the links to additional material there is a link to a Gazette article – someone in Halton Hills likes us.

During a recent Regional Council meeting one of the representatives from Halton Hills admitted that there was homelessness and people sleeping on park benches in her community.

The person on the park bench spends another winter night in the snowy, wet, subzero weather. Some people in our neighbourhood are helping and the authorities and agencies are fully aware and actively seeking solutions. Similarly, you may be aware of others who are homeless in your neighbourhoods.

Georgetown signThere is homelessness in Georgetown(1). Some of us are vaguely aware that there may be. Some of us may try to do something about it but find it hard to create change. Some of us get upset or become disappointed and frustrated with failed efforts and a few may try to do more or learn more. Some of us just walk by the bench and say it’s just too bad and it shouldn’t be and don’t know where to turn, so turn away.

There is homelessness all over the world – in all developing countries, as well as those countries with the highest standards of living. There (here) it’s a chronic social problem driven by many complex factors including economic and social inequality, apathy, discrimination, impacts of mental illness, family dysfunction, alcoholism and drug addiction. Despite many well-intended and well-resourced studies and valiant efforts, we can’t seem to cure or prevent it.

Somebody had to come up with a different approach. What if we provided homes for the homeless; how might that change the paradigm?

The good news is – it’s been studied, researched and tried and it works. Quality of life gradually improves including: addiction behaviour, health, state-of-mind, ambition and action towards education, self-improvement and a return to society as a full participating member. The research is there and the results are proof.

You have to love the Finns. Four of them, a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop devised the principle called “housing first” over a decade ago. When I first read about this, I was dumbstruck. This article (2), one of many, describes the initiative: “As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

“We decided to make the housing unconditional. To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” Finland now has the lowest rate of homelessness in the EU and is on the road to eradicating it.

Now, let’s bring it home – to Medicine Hat, Alberta. Watch your jaw drop. This western city has been blazing the trail toward functional zero chronic homelessness in Canada, having supported and housed 1166 homeless individuals since 2009. There are currently fewer than seven individuals not yet ‘at home’ in their community, today (3, 4)

A conceptually simple, concrete and sustainable solution, but it raises many issues of social and political will and resource allocation.

What if our community tried the same thing and became, like many other communities well on the road, an example of innovative, collaborative and successful social action? We did it on a smaller but very successful scale for our Beer Fest and the Canada Day flag competition and fly over.

It begins with individuals, – citizens, politicians, community and business leaders, who have the social consciousness and conscience, and the will to act and demonstrate leadership.

Let’s take a look around and challenge potential candidates. I believe an action force comprised of three powerful groups within our community could launch our own Halton Hills Homes First program and succeed. The partnership would consist of leadership from Mayor Rick Bonnette and our strong municipal council – human resources from a cooperative of local service organizations led by Habitat for Humanity – coupled with the experience and capacity of a major local developer prepared to give back.

If you Google ‘’housing first”, you will learn about the many pros and cons, failures and successes, frustrations and challenges and yes, critics, naysayers and deniers. But, you will also understand that it’s the best idea yet and that may convince you to have second thoughts next time you walk past that park bench in your neighbourhood.

Media links:

4file://localhost/. https/


Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 comments to The power of a place called home: Open Letter to the community

  • Alfred

    With the price of land in Burlington, your very noble cause is unrealistic. There are surrounding Municipalities that can provide housing much cheaper. Do you have any strategies in mind? Don’t forget the nimbys won’t support anything in Burlington.

  • Anne and Dave Marsden

    Our political campaigns Anne’s name may be on the ballot but it is a joint venture has always included a goal of eradicating homelessness and hunger starting with the Halton community. We await the day when we will hear a unanimous resolution at Halton Council to work towards this goal. Sad to say those we choose to elect are more interested in eradicating LPAT or some other political issue of the day that is self serving in terms of political careers. Thank you for this article Perhaps you will publish stats on a regular basis and stories of those in the front line in our community who see it as it is and work tirelessly to make things better awhile praying in their own particular way that one day there will not be this need in our community

  • Claudette Mancini

    Housing first and also affordable housing should be the aim of every municipality in the world. All we need is community and government will and cooperation to seek out and develop strategies for the implementation of both. Are we listening, Burlington?