London looks at homeless
By Marshall Bellamy
While London’s homeless are being threatened by cuts
at City Hall, the poor people of Toronto are getting hot potatoes
in hot socks from a local charity.
The potatoes are baked and placed inside socks to be given
to the city’s homeless, said Darryl Borden, director
of homeless initiatives with Ve’ahavta, the Canadian
Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee, the charity distributing
the potatoes and socks. “So far the response out in the
street has been great,” he said.
“It’s phenomenal. I’ve never seen a program
take off like this,” Borden said, adding news services
from as far as England have been calling for interviews, and
cities across North America have expressed interest in starting
a similar program.
So far, about 500 taters have been distributed over the last
three weeks, he said, adding the number is expected to rise
because the Prince Edward Island Potato Board will be donating
125,000 spuds to the cause.
London is also facing a difficult homelessness crisis, although
according to Ward 6 councillor Dave Winninger, hot potatoes
will not be a permanent solution, indicating a current initiative
has police officers carrying blankets with them.
“We always need creative ideas when we’re budgeting,” he
said. “I don’t know if the hot potatoes would be
the solution today.”
Winninger explained there are many social programs which aid
the homeless and poor in danger of being cut by City Hall in
an effort to trim the books. “In a time of fiscal restraint — there’s
always a temptation to cut the soft programs,” he added.
According to Winninger, programs being threatened include
funds which pay rent and hydro bills if families cannot cover
living expenses, and allowing people to stay in shelters for
longer than the standard 42 days.
He pointed out a need for a balance in city budget spending. “We
need to balance off social needs, economic needs and environmental
needs,” he said. “It’s a triple bottom-line.”
“I guess it’s nice they’re giving something
out — after all, they are homeless. It’s a smart
way to keep warm,” noted first-year health sciences student
“That’s bullshit! In Calgary, we have pull-up
showers and drop-in centres, so basically I think that’s
not good enough,” said University of Lethbridge student
Trish Briddemoham, who happened to be in The Spoke yesterday.