Editorial: Homelessness Maze needs the right people

No one asks to become homeless or unhoused. It is a problem that is growing in rural communities across Eastern Ontario, including here in South Dundas. Fueled by the obstacles of rapid inflation, skyrocketing housing prices, food inflation, and workforce pay that did not keep pace with inflation, this ever growing problem is the focus of an upcoming Homelessness Maze that the House of Lazarus is facilitating March 22.

This Homelessness Maze will show how someone who is experiencing homelessness deals with navigating the various programs offered to get help in SDG. Those who sign up will be given an identity, and get to role play as a homeless person for up to four hours. Then participants will be able to resume their normal lives. Those participants are the fortunate ones. Many are not so lucky.

Homelessness has steadily increased in SDG Counties, and in South Dundas. The price of home rental and home ownership has doubled in the last five years. A three bedroom rental that used to rent for $800 per month now is more than twice that rent. Community housing initiatives are backed up at least one year (minimum) and according to statistics provided by the City of Cornwall Human Services department, extends to up to four years. What are people who have no homes and no options to do in the meantime?

This Homelessness Maze is a great initiative, but it needs to have the right people attend. Who are those right people? Politicians, municipal staff, school administrators, and business people, namely those who are in, or work from, positions of privilege within the community. Those people are the ones who will most benefit from this experience, as they are the decision makers.

Recent property tax increases approved in South Dundas and North Dundas have made home ownership, especially for those who are on fixed incomes (approximately 25 per cent), increasingly impossible. Yet the comments from various council meetings say they are “comfortable” with the increases. So this is their chance to experience something uncomfortable, and see from the perspective of some of the residents of the community who are not so privileged.

The use of food banks is at an all-time high. Food insecurity issues remain a drain on families. Having to decide on whether to pay your rent, utilities, or feed your family is a decision no one should have to make.

Having the right people attend this Homelessness Maze will provide some perspective for the decision makers in our communities. With any luck, this event will see some effective change and needed support for programs in the community, which is more constructive than complaining and bickering about what level of government is supposed to be providing what service.

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