Welcome to Ottawa, Canada’s beautiful capital, home of…
… the homeless? Drug addicts? Record numbers of overdose victims? A rising threat of violence?
I should be grateful to Radio Canada for this almost 12-minute report, and I am. But the situation they depict (right on our doorstep, I should add, as we live right here in Ottawa Lowertown, thankfully to the east of King Edward Avenue, so we are not quite that badly affected, but still) makes me boil with anger.
Why? Because it is in large part a solvable problem.
Homelessness is manifestly solvable. Yes, it’d cost money, but how can I put it? A permanent solution would cost only a fraction of our botched LRT. Make affordable housing available to anyone for the asking. It need not be great accommodations, but functional and of acceptable quality. To follow the example set by Vienna a century ago, the accommodations should be good enough for many to decide to stay there for good, and nobody should be kicked out either.
Drug use and mental health problems require another old-fashioned solution: institutionalization. No, I don’t mean Dickensian insane asylums. We’re better than that. But we must recognize that there exists a small percentage among the homeless whose mental health is such that they are incapable of independent living. Institutionalizing such people is not a crime; rather, it’s the failure to provide the support and care they require that is criminal.
Unfortunately, I see no real desire to address these problems. Instead, we have this situation, getting worse with each and every passing day, within a stone’s throw of Canada’s Parliament, within a stone’s throw of venerable institutions like the Chateau Laurier… And we’re letting it happen. I find this incomprehensible.
But don’t you worry, the city has money to spend on messing up yet another street (this time, it’s Bank Street) with bike lanes that almost nobody uses, suffocating the remaining local brick-and-mortar businesses by eliminating the few on-street parking spots on which they rely for their clientele…