Homelessness in Montreal: How research from politics, economics and social work can help improve the issue

by annelaurenceb on May 15, 2015 - 5:51pm

Poverty is a global issue that is one of the worst, if not the worst. It is often the cause of many other problems such as access to water, health system problems and epidemic diseases. Even though living in the Western world may seem an easy thing to deal with as it is a common belief that poverty is an issue that does not touch this part of the world, many people will experience homelessness, which is a form of poverty, throughout their lives. In Canada, there has been an estimation of 300 000 people that experienced homelessness during the year of 2013 (Gaetz et al., 2013, p.5), which means that the issue can affect anybody that is facing a personal economic crisis. The following essay will analyze the issue of homelessness in Montreal by comparing this city’s situation with other places in the world by showing that there are solutions and that these should be developed more.

To begin, leaders of the countries over the world should try to implement the best policies that would show an understanding of the issue and possible solutions. One thing that has been done in many municipalities in the last decade in the United States was to put in place some shelters and organize the management of homeless people. By doing so, they thought it would be a great idea to implement some regulations in order to criminalize some activities done by the people who do not have a shelter, such as sleeping in parks. Therefore, those people would not have any choice but go to shelters for the night where they could receive some help in the hope of reintegrating the society in the future (da Costa Nunez, 2005, p.309).

This solution seems to be an effective one, since it pressures the homeless to find a shelter and get more organized. Even though some people complained that this measure taken by the governments was a non-sense, it seems as it is a pretty logic solution. If the government decides to put some regulations, they have no other choice than financing shelters and taking special measures to be sure that people could follow their policies. However, the issue of homelessness cannot be resolved solely by governments, and other implications are necessary for the situation to get better. The power of the citizens should also not be diminished since they have a major impact by the way they invest their time and money into this issue.

At its base, homelessness derives from poverty, which is, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions". Therefore, money plays a crucial role into finding solutions to this issue. As homelessness is a problematic that it tightly linked to economics and money, it is interesting to be aware of the fact that according to a study made in 2013, homelessness costs to the Canadian economy over 7 billion dollars per year. This money is used to pay things such as emergency shelters, social services and also health care (Gaetz et al., 2013, p.8).

In New York, the city and state governments provide a lot of funding for the homeless, as they contribute a lot to the 1 billion dollars that is given to support fight against this issue. According to recent estimates, there were still almost 50,000 people that lived in the streets of the Big Apple without having any access for a shelter for the night, and the numbers for the number of homeless that are using the shelters available were not established. However, the number of people having no access to any resource could be even larger if it was not for the help that the shelters bring to those that are living in the streets. Considering the huge population of New York City, their management of the situation seems adequate (Anderson, 2013, p.12-13).

In comparison to that, Quebec’s government has recently renewed its investment of 9 million dollars to fight against poverty and homelessness in Montreal only since it is the largest city of the province. In the last year, the investment of the government had helped to serve food and provide shelter to 350,000 people in the metropolis (Vendeville, 2015). Considering the situation of both cities, it is interesting to see that even though New York receives a much higher funding, the city of Montreal is still able to provide shelters for a great number of homeless with a much more restricted budget. Therefore, the importance of studying homelessness from an economic perspective should not be diminished. Economic policies are often tightly linked with political measures that have been taken, but it differs in the sense that those measures are directly linked with the investment of money to fight the issue.

Another aspect that is crucial in understanding homelessness is the effect and help of social work to this issue. There is a misconception of homeless people in society, which brings people to consider people that are living in poverty under normal citizens, and that they should not have the same human rights. However, this view needs to be changed. The issue needs to be considered more as a human rights violation, as there are three levels that can be affected which are global, national and local. The work that needs to be done has to be on all those levels and with the idea in mind that the goal is for those people to live in the best conditions as possible (Parsell, 2012, p.281).

Recently in Montreal, there has been a counting of the people that did not have a shelter to sleep at night. More than 1000 volunteers walked the streets and went through the metro of Montreal to find homeless people and if they wanted to, share their story with the volunteers (Muise, 2015). Many shelters also exist all over the world and can be used to help the people in need. Those shelters can provide food, cheap clothing, a bed for a night and other important services. Often, the people that are going to these shelters can receive some help regarding finding a job or another place to stay. There are many of those shelters that do already exist in Montreal, such as the Welcome Hall Mission (www.welcomehallmission.com) and the Old Brewery Mission (www.oldbrewerymission.ca).

It also seems like the issue of homelessness can be tackled with the help of new power. New power can be characterized by giving the power to the crowds and letting them share the news by innovating and creating new networks (Heimans, Timms, 2014). Even though measures taken in politics, economics and social work can be all very helpful to the issue, new power should be used in all those disciplines and its influence should not be diminished. For example, if a particular project is brought up by a government, a good way to propagate it would be through social media and the help of the entire population could be beneficial. This would differ from the traditional method as it could make the sharing of information much easier.

To conclude, the problem of homelessness could be improved by many different solutions in the city of Montreal, some of which include different governmental policies, fiscal help and programs created by social workers and volunteers. Another comparison that would be interesting to study would be with the Europeans to compare where they stand on this issue and why. Even though Eastern Europe may have lower numbers of homeless population, the Western part is very similar with the American’s situation. About ten years ago, there were an estimation of 3 million people that would spend the winter in Europe being homeless, as at the same time there were about 2 million Americans in that situation, which makes the situation of Europe and the United States quite similar (Ghosh, 2003, p.50). Since those are not recent numbers, it would be interesting to analyze the situation nowadays and to see the difference between those places.

Works cited

Anderson, Larry. "Help For The Homeless." American City & County 128.3 (2013): 12-13.             Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 May 2015.

da Costa Nunez, Ralph. "Citizens Without Shelter: Homelessness, Democracy, And Political          Exclusion." Political Science Quarterly (Academy Of Political Science) 120.2 (2005): 309-        310. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 May 2015.

Ghosh, Aparisim, et al. "Down And Out In Europe." Time Europe 161.6 (2003): 50. Academic       Search             Premier. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Gaetz , Stephen; Donaldson, Jesse; Richter, Tim & Gulliver, Tanya. "The State of Homelessness    in Canada 2013." The Homeless Hub (2013). Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research       Network Press. http://www.homelesshub.ca/ResourceFiles/SOHC2103.pdf

Heimans, Jeremy; Timms, Henry. "TED’s Shift from Old to New Power." Harvard Business Review. (2014). Web. 6 May 2015. https://hbr.org/2014/12/teds-shift-from-old-to-new-power

Muise, Monique. " Army of volunteers carries out Montreal homeless census." Montreal             Gazette. (2015). Web. 6 May 2015. http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/army                 of-volunteers-carries-out-montreal-homeless-census

Parsell, Cameron. "Response To Ann Coleman: Context, Context, Context: A Commentary On      Responding To People Sleeping Rough: Dilemmas And Opportunities For Social     Work." Australian Social Work 65.2 (2012): 280-285. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7                    May 2015.

Vendeville, Geoffrey. "Quebec renews $9-million investment to fight poverty." Montreal                         Gazette. (2015). Web. 6 May 2015. http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-           news/quebec-renews-9-million-investment-to-fight-poverty


I am glad that you brought up the issue of homelessness, because this post definitely makes readers aware of the situation that is occurring everywhere around the world. It actually makes me incredibly sad when I walk around in downtown Montreal and pass by homeless people on the streets and in the metro. It is shocking to read in your post that around 300, 000 Canadian citizens were experiencing homelessness in 2013.
While I was reading your post, I was thinking of a volunteering opportunity that I have heard of with the Welcome Hall Mission and I was extremely surprised that you suggested the same volunteering opportunity in your post. What I find interesting with the Welcome Hall Mission is that anyone can volunteer and you have the choice to volunteer individually, as a group or even as a corporation. If one does not have the time to volunteer, the other option is to donate to those who are less fortunate! I’ve even seen people taking an initiative concerning homelessness and paying homeless people a meal. After all, we cannot forget that the homeless are still human beings.