|By Sydney White|
It's so hard to decide. Should you be facing the opening in the refrigerator crate or should you keep the sewage water to the south side? Should you save the remaining oil in the sardine can for aromatherapy or use it to protect winter-burned skin?
Of course if frostbite hits, you will not feel the windburn, and one of your less fortunate neighbours will inherit your cardboard home.
Most of the people in your nomadic community may only have the steam from a subway grate, or the frozen iron bench of a bus shelter. Owning your own refrigerator box is rare, almost as rare as the compassion or justice dispensed by Ottawa.
During the Arctic cold of January, Toronto's new Mayor Miller actually convinced the cosy bureaucrats to open the doors of the unused Armory, for the first time in three years. The shame is that hundreds of homeless people died on our streets during those years when it was not open.
The general attitude of denial is clearly evident in the astonishing fact that the governments of Canada and the United States do not record the number of deaths caused by lack of housing. All over the world, extreme weather, caused by the ongoing loss of our atmosphere, is killing thousands of homeless people, while many governments seem to have agreed sub rosa not to record or admit it. Over the last four winters, 1,700 homeless people have perished in Moscow, where they are known by the derogatory term "bomzhi", meaning "drifter". Indeed, they die in the drifts and are found in the spring when they are re-named "snowdrops".
In London, England, however, there is a range of services to the homeless and they are eligible for welfare, though they may have no fixed address. In Denmark, there is a nationwide organization for the homeless with a representative from each county. There is even Copenhagen Radio for the Homeless which broadcasts one hour every week. It lobbies politicians, with one result being the National Day of the Homeless held in October each year.
Some countries do acknowledge the homeless plight but it never results in homes, not even the euphemism of a small room.
Contrary to the myth of the "shiftless" homeless, half of the 250,000 homeless in Canada are working. They go to interviews from the Salvation Army and the soup kitchen. Despite their Herculean efforts to survive and move back into society, the numbers of new homeless are climbing everywhere. It is the shame of the wealthy industrialized nations that so many of their contributing citizens are classified as surplus labour only and are not given credit for all their contributions to society outside of an official "job".
There are bankruptcies in record numbers throughout the First World and people spend more than one-third of their incomes on homes.
Homeowners in the United States are taking out loans to pay credit-card debts because credit cards are used to fill the gap between wages and prices.
In the United States there is a five-year limit on welfare and many of the down-sized live in their cars, because half of them are not eligible for unemployment benefits. In fact, the average family with three children loses their home and car within five months of losing a $40,000 a year income. Eighteen cities in the United States report that 41per cent of the homeless are families and 23 per cent are children.
Housing prices are predicted to rise by 6 per cent and will continue to rise. Even a mobile home in the United States rents for $475 a month and the working man's wage averages out to $8 an hour. Though this survey was done by the American publication USA Today, it is not far off the mark for Canada.
Here, television ads dramatize the plight of the homeless, reminding the public: "Without you there is no way". At the same time, our government is paying more than $1,500 per month for each motel room they are donating to a number of homeless families on the outskirts of Toronto. This drop in the bucket is neither humane nor cost-effective. A national housing plan would provide many jobs and save money that is wasted now on band-aids.
More money is wasted on the shameful persecution of those concerned with housing the poor. In the past, John Clarke, head of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, has been surveilled, handcuffed, jailed and prevented from attending meetings of his own organization. While other street helpers are com-mended for staying on the street and out of politics, Clarke's group takes over empty but livable buildings and cleans them up as temporary homes for the poor. Along with no record of homeless deaths, there is no record of how many homeless lives the Coalition Against Poverty may have saved over several years of advocacy.
The "government" has told us for some time that we cannot afford a national housing plan. They are trying to tell us we can't afford our own publicly owned Hydro. They're colluding with private healthcare corporations who want to infiltrate our health care system.
Privatization is a neutral word for piracy and
the first piracy was when our "government" was coerced into
putting our central bank in the meat locker. The Bank of Canada issued
interest-free loans to us for our infrastructure for 41 years. The interest-free
payments on these loans (now paid to private bankers) left us with the
required money for national housing development. This interest-free honest
money paid off the war debt and set up our health care
Governments, to their shame, are now hostages to the international banking syndicate. As such, they are obligated to collect taxes and sell public assets to pay this unnecessary interest. This financial fraud known as "the economy" is far from economical. It has been accelerating at a frightening pace since the private "Federal" Reserve subordinated the U.S. government in 1913.
We must demand that our "government" stop being an agent for the Rothschild cartel and return to borrowing from our own bank instead of foreign privateers. We would save $42 billion in interest alone every year. This saving could finance a national housing plan.
If we do not roust the privateers from our monetary system, we will not only lose our homes, but the shirts from our backs. Indeed, Ottawa's attitude toward the most victimized under this social debt financier "economy", is as useless as Feng Shui to the homeless.
Our good fortune will come when enough of the population are concerned with facing the truth and not the wall of corporate economic myth.
A member of the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform, Sydney White teaches "Studies in Propaganda" at the Free University of Toronto. Classes resume Monday, April 5, 6:00 p.m., Lecture Room 137, 60 St. George Street, McLennan Physical Labs, U of T. For more information call 416-929-8840.