The 24 april, I do not count!
The 24 next april, the government of Quebec will count people experiencing homelessness in 11 cities. This enumeration is part of the will of governments to justify important programs claiming to end homelessness in a few years. Document more and ultimately end homelessness, these are good intentions, but hell is paved with good intentions.
Counting people experiencing visible homelessness obscures the magnitude of the situation
The proposed exercise is essentially a photograph of an isolated moment in specific places. Many places will not be visited, entire regions are excluded and the volunteers who will conduct the exercise will identify people on the basis of minimalist criteria stemming from the stereotypes associated with homeless people.
So, large numbers of people experiencing hidden homelessness, episodic or situational will be ruled out and, thereby, "Invisible" (especially women, young people, Aboriginal, people from cultural communities). This effect is likely to be particularly significant in regions where the survival strategies of these people ensure that they are not "visible".
The results obtained involve real risks if they are given too much credibility or attempted to make comparisons. For exemple, if there are fewer people in April 2018 in Montreal than in 2015 will we be pleased to have reduced homelessness? A number is easy to understand, easy to compare, but will we take into account the other clues, like the fact that Montreal shelters, especially for women, continued to overflow all winter, that resources continue to refuse hundreds of people each year due to lack of space?
Investigate people experiencing homelessness, a disrespectful practice close to the denial of rights
In addition to counting them, the counting teams will administer exhaustive questionnaires to the people met. Many questions go to the heart of life situations that may have led people to the street. Although people are free to answer it or not; the fact remains that many will be plunged back directly into traumatic elements of their existence by well-intentioned volunteers, but not necessarily equipped to deal with these situations.
Several of the questions in the questionnaire run counter to the fundamental principles of the intervention by / for / with essentials in terms of intervention.. In these approaches, those helped are brought to speak of their realities at their own pace or at least in a much less rushed manner.
Who would accept to answer questions about his associates, sexual practices, incarceration experience with strangers met by chance on the street, possibly in a time of distress? Will the people questioned feel comfortable refusing when they are already regularly questioned by the police? And what impact will this perilous process have on the ability of the workers to come into contact with the people questioned ? After answering the questionnaire, participants will receive a superb Ti Moton gift card, an exemplary corporate citizen!
Why count homeless people?
Why this focus on visible homelessness which obscures the existence and extent of the different forms of homelessness? Visible homelessness is one that bothers capitalists and their lackeys. It’s the one that takes up space in sanitized city centers, she is the one who harms the sale of condos in working-class neighborhoods, she’s exposing the gaping holes in the social safety net. It becomes important for governments to act, but without displeasing the bosses, investors and bankers.
The recipe is simple, there are homeless people. Despite the downsides of the organizers, the key information remains the number. Then the government sets a goal of getting a symbolic part of this number out of the street in a few years. To do this, he will use the fashionable approach among decision makers: le Housing first (also called Housing First, residential stability with support). During the last years, the federal and provincial governments redirected a large part of their funding to community groups towards the Housing First approach at the expense of other activities such as street work, harm reduction and prevention in general.
Then we recount! Whether the number is up or down, the political conclusion will be favorable to the approach ...
Why governments are so supportive of the Housing first approach?
Governments support this approach because it appears to be effective in the eyes of the public and especially because it does not challenge the established order. Aiming for the "end of homelessness" in a capitalist context is very illusory, but will remain a very useful slogan to sell ready-to-vote solutions to decision-makers lacking committed images.
The Housing first approach works in certain circumstances, but it is only aimed at helping people who have been on the street for a long time, so many homeless people simply cannot participate in these projects. Furthermore, for many reasons, many people housed by these programs are unable to stay in housing and end up leaving. Others simply do not have the financial capacity to keep a home after the program ends and must therefore return to the streets. It offers a "simple solution" to complex situations that will inevitably fail.
Housing First's solution moves government away from long-term responsibilities; thus the use of subsidized private housing does well for owners who inherit a captive clientele, undemanding and with almost guaranteed rent payment. Using private accommodation, housing needs are reduced in the very short term and the role of the private sector is strengthened. We do not favor the creation of collective and social spaces. These are investments that remain the property of communities and offer diversified and structuring environments..
The 24 april, we will be as usual with people experiencing homelessness, but we refuse to count! We invite SITT-IWW members and the public not to participate in this hoax!
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