Unity to meet tonight

Affordable housing seen as issue

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A prominent member of London’s homeless support community has warned homelessness in London could potentially spike in the coming months as the city’s unemployment rate continues to rise.

“At this point in time there has been no real effect, but we will see with time what the effect is,” Chuck Lazenby, general manager for the Unity Project, noted.

The Unity Project is a London-based non-profit organization that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing to the homeless of London.

Lazenby, a critic of London’s City Council’s policies with regard to homelessness, believes the affordable housing crisis is at the root of the issue.

“At this point in time [Council] should start mandating subsidized housing for every residential development so we are not ghettoizing subsidized housing,” Lazenby said.

Issues such as these will be addressed at the project’s general meeting, held tonight at 5:30p.m. at the Centre United Church on Dundas Street. In addition to raising public awareness on the issue, the meeting aims to provide an overview of future plans for the shelter.

The future of the shelter has been given added importance with the worsening economic climate and the negative effects felt by London. According to Lucille Brennan, a social worker funded by the United Way, unemployment in the city is becoming a considerable problem.

“Business is booming for social workers as unemployment has jumped in January from 7.1 per cent to 8.5 per cent this month,” Brennan said. “Yes, higher unemployment will lead to more homeless.

“[Employment insurance] is about 55 per cent of wage so people who lived from pay cheque to pay cheque, will no longer be able to pay bills when income is reduced,” Brennan added.

It’s also questionable as to whether shelters like the Unity Project could possibly accommodate an increased number of homeless people.

“We’re very busy and are running at capacity,” Bernie Hammond, a professor at King’s University College and member of the Unity Project’s Board of Directors, said.

“At this time, government funding is becoming more difficult to get, but our need is increasing. We need to put more effort towards raising funds which are crucial at the present time,” Hammond added.

A professor of social justice and peace studies, Hammond believes homelessness is one the most important social justice issues facing Canada. He is a devout believer in the Unity Project’s mission and philosophy.

“[The Unity Project] is a grassroots organization and helps people help themselves rather then dictating to them how they should behave,” Hammond said.

Amanda Grzyb, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, is also a member of the Unity Project’s Board of Directors.

“My last three years on the Board [...] have been tremendously rewarding,” Grzyb said. “I am consistently impressed by the skill and dedication of Chuck Lazenby and our front line staff at the shelter, who confront the realities of London’s homelessness crisis every day.”

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