• Michele Zampa

One Man, One Roof


We all probably see homeless people everyday; I’m sure that most people living in Montreal or in other big cities can confirm such a reality. It can also be safely assumed that oftentimes not much is done to either change the situation or offer some help. However, according to a CBC interview, that is not the case for the small city of Medicine Hat in Alberta. According to mayor, Ted Clugston, the city appears to have eliminated homelessness completely.

The project, which was initiated in 2009, could be termed successful: nobody spends more than 10 days living on the streets or in emergency shelters as housing is almost immediately provided. The initiative met with some difficulties along the way, such as frequent flooding and the initial opposition of the mayor himself, who at the time, “even said some dumb things like, 'Why should they [the homeless people] have granite countertops when I don't.” The issue of flooding was resolved thanks to the money “chipped in by the province,” and Mr. Clugston eventually changed his mind and ended up fully supporting the plan ("Medicine Hat Becomes the First City in Canada to Eliminate Homelessness").

However, Mr. Clugston’s epiphany was not the result of a shift in moral beliefs or of a re-evaluation of the social problem that homelessness can be. Rather, the good major came to realize that such a plan “makes financial sense.” He was reported saying that having an individual living on the streets can cost the government up to $100,000 a year, while housing them “only” costs $20,000 a year. Moreover, the newly housed homeless people (who are not that homeless anymore), according to Clugston, still end up dealing with their past problems when provided with the opportunity of not being on the streets.

While such news is indeed a source of joy, it is important to note that if such a solution did not make economic sense, it would not have been taken into account. They are essentially delegating the wellbeing of homeless citizens (and people) as a secondary concern to the economic interest of the majority. This becomes pretty evident as Mr. Clugston admits that he practically forced a man into being housed: the authorities had to take him out of the streets 75 times before he finally surrendered to stay in the home he was assigned. In this light, it is good news that this plan also makes economic sense, but that should not be the main reason to implement it.

Bibliography

"Medicine Hat Becomes the First City in Canada to Eliminate Homelessness." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 14 May 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015


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