Volume 95, Issue 42

Thursday, November 15, 2001
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Stockwell sucks up to young PCs

Revolution sweeps across Afghanistan

French knight loves Star Trek and KD

Calendar sales steady

Homeless problem troubles London city council

Choo choo! -- all aboard the hippie train

News Briefs

Homeless problem troubles London city council

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

The Community Plan on Homelessness in London was presented to city council on Monday with surprising results.

The report, presented and produced by Ginsler and Associates, a consulting firm in Kitchener, was a six-month study involving consumers, businesses, universities and non-profit groups.

Ginsler CEO Ernie Ginsler said findings from Urban Poverty in Canada, a book by Kevin Lee, showed about 20 per cent of people in London are homeless or living in substandard housing.

The book's author got his statistics from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Ginsler added.

"[London is] tied with Toronto for the level of core housing need and nationally, it comes second only to Montreal," Ginsler said.

"We need strategies for providing more affordable housing for people in need," he said.

In the report, Ginsler recommended the creation of a "rent bank" to give people short-term loans in emergency situations, as well as an increase of supported independent living.

London Commissioner of Planning Victor Cote said the city is considering the report. "No one is going to argue there is a problem," he said, adding council has set aside a fund of $2 million and is in the process of setting up a "housing" division.

According to King's College professor of sociology Lesley Harman, poverty can be invisible to the common eye.

"There is the assumption that people who are homeless are morally unfit. In London, we do have this idea. There is a lot of money in this town, but it conceals the fact that there is a tremendous amount of misfortune," she said.

Harman noted that an additional squeeze on housing in London is brought on by students. "We need more affordable housing and more aid to the poor, as well as greater education and understanding," Harman said.

For those on the frontline, this truth rings even louder.

Marshall Phinney, executive director for the Salvation Army in London, runs a youth shelter and a men's shelter.

"In the last three years there has been a dramatic increase – from about 50 people a night to about 95," Phinney said.

"I don't have all the solutions – I run emergency shelters. More shelter beds are not the answer, we need to have a long-term plan in place," he said.

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