Remaking The Poverty Industry of DTES

July 16, 2022

In my opinion, one of the major issues in DTES (especially but not exclusively) is the “industry” that has developed around the issue of poverty, homelessness, and addiction.  There are scores of organizations of all kinds, many with overlapping aims, and each with their own bureaucracies (small and large), a number of which are very highly paid.  Too much money that could be better spent on support and maintenance is drained into paying for the organizations and their “mini-empires”.  

While there may be a few outstanding success stories, it is plain to see that this poverty industry as currently operating has failed spectacularly and horrifically.

I do not have a magic answer to solve these issues. Rather, I would propose that a working conference be established including as many interested groups as possible to come up with new solutions. The conferees should include, but not be limited to, the homeless, the working poor, VANDU and similar groups, community groups, women’s groups, indigenous folks, social and health professionals. The conference needs to include all levels of government but not be controlled or managed by them. The governments should, within reasonable limits, agree to enact the recommendations proposed by the conference.

I have some suggestions about matters that could be included in the discussion (I am sure there are many others):

  • decriminalization of drugs and provide a safe supply, thus removing police and criminals from what is a social welfare and health issue;
  • bring in Universal Basic Income;
  • expropriate all SROs and similar facilities (including those operated by non-profits) and turn them into clean and safe livable spaces under transparent management;
  • prioritize the building of affordable housing in the neighbourhood;
  • significantly reform and improve health, welfare, education, and training services;
  • funding should come from the money currently paid to the poverty industry, plus a reduction in police budgets by x%, and more if needed.

None of this would be cheap. But if you think the present situation is affordable for any of us, then frankly you are nuts.