July 21st, 2024

Clark appears on CBC to talk homelessness

By COLLIN GALLANT on January 19, 2024.

Medicine Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark appeared on a recent CBC panel discussion on homelessness and how to tackled the growing issue.--NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Medicine Hat is back in the national discussion regarding homelessness as it prepares to advance another local summit on how to tackle the issue.

Mayor Linnsie Clark appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics as part of a segment on growing concerns about rising numbers of unhoused people in cities across Canada.

Along with newer challenges of availability and affordability housing, Clark argued that addressing mental health and addiction problems that can lead to homelessness like other physical health issues would bring together governments which share in responsibility to provide social services.

“If someone had dementia the options wouldn’t be (to) figure out a way to live independently or you’re out on the street,” she said.

“Moving forward we hope to collaborate with provincial and federal governments, (so) people who have health needs are being treated for their health needs in a facility where they feel safe and secure that is a home for them.”

CBC’s Catherine Cullen hosted the panel discussion with London, Ont. Mayor Josh Morgan. His city recently introduced housing hubs to provide housing and access to social services and health-care supports in hopes of solving underlying issues.

Medicine Hat Community Housing Society began promoting “wrap around” assisted living more than five years ago.

The second of two “summit” style meetings comprising a host of social service agencies, local government officials and the business community in the city is set to meet Feb. 1 for further co-ordination and strategy to tackle the problem.

That occurs as blisteringly cold weather and reports of police actions to dismantle tent encampments in other cities heighten the issue.

The total number of homeless Canadians could be between 260,000 and 300,000, according to estimates.

Medicine Hat’s elected and senior officials gained prominence in the mid-2010s having declared the goal of “ending homelessness” in the city with a “housing first” approach that by several metrics drove the functional rate to zero for short periods of time.

However, that eventually rose again, leading officials to explain and re-explain that the measure examines timetables for those requesting housing, not an absolute zero.

“We’re probably never going to eliminate homelessness entirely,” Clark said.

“More recently we’re experiencing a bunch of factors that we weren’t facing when we declared functional zero.

“Affordability is a huge issue, housing supply, and then of course mental health and addictions are huge issues across Canada. Those all contribute to the complexity of getting people housed and staying housed.”

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