Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The killing fields of Calgary's streets

At least 177 homeless people have died -- from poor health in hospitals to violent encounters on city streets -- in the past five years, according to numbers compiled by the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre.
Officials at the downtown shelter have been compiling the list since 2003, when they decided to keep track of their clients who have passed away.

Almost certainly a low ball figure too, it doesn't include many couch surfers or those who died in hospitals.

As of 2006 there were more than 3000 people living on the streets or in shelters in Calgary. As shelters were overflowing and NIMBYism was keeping new ones from being built, hateful almost eliminationist rhetoric and official policy were being promoted by Calgary's business and political elite. The Calgary Sun referred to homeless people as 'polluted' and the city council was passing laws making being poor illegal. Taking their cue from the official tone, roving bands of thugs were gleefully videotaping themselves abusing the homeless and a Calgary business association launched a huge campaign to try to convince Calgarians not to give change to people begging for help.

Of course the kind of ideological every man (and woman, and child) for themselves attitude exemplified in the right wing politics of Alberta is casual policy sadism that isn't even cost effective. A study in BC proved that pushing people off welfare ends up costing the public many times more than keeping them on the rolls.

Now the homeless are being disenfranchised even more by new electoral ID laws that seem designed to purge the poorest from participating in society.

We can't afford an ideology that is unwilling to even concede there is a problem or that government has any role in its solution anymore. People shouldn't be freezing to death on the streets of the richest city in Canada.

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