In an Open Letter released today, the Canadian Network for Health and Housing of People Experiencing Homelessness (CNH3) says housing is key to returning the country’s economy and entire population to good health.
Housing is a critical determinant of health, making it possible for people to heed pandemic public health advice and protect themselves against COVID-19. Healthcare professionals have long seen the harm and ill effects of homelessness on those experiencing it. And when providers care for those patients during the pandemic, they know that homelessness puts them at greater risk of getting COVID and suffering serious outcomes. With more people having been infected by COVID-19 in Toronto’s homeless shelter system than all cases in Manitoba and New Brunswick combined, they know housing is the right prescription.
That is why so many healthcare professionals and organizations across Canada are joining the Canadian Network for the Health and Housing of People Experiencing Homelessness (CNH3) in calling on the federal government to invest in housing for health for all. The network today released an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, Health Minister Hajdu and Families, Children and Social Development Minister Hussen, urging them to adopt the Recovery for All plan of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and make ending homelessness a core element of Canada’s pandemic recovery plan.
In the letter, CNH3 co-chair Dr. Andrew Bond says that while the federal government’s support during COVID has helped improve access to some services for people experiencing homelessness, the housing and health needs of this population are far from being met. He notes that every year, more than 235,000 people in Canada have no home and more than 1.7 million people with low incomes have core housing needs. Dr. Bond says the need for immediate action is urgent since thousands more Canadians are about to face homelessness in the fall when CERB ends and non-emergency housing evictions begin.
Dr. Bond says this is not inevitable. “Decades of public policy decisions created Canada’s homelessness crisis. We can, and must, make policy choices today that are better and more just, that will create a post-pandemic Canada that is healthier, safer, and resilient,” he says. “Those choices must be driven by the desire and will to produce a robust economy that benefits all people who call Canada home, a recovery that will truly and finally house everyone in health and dignity.”
Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Ann Collins says health professionals are responding to the evidence when they support this letter. “Canada’s physicians have seen first-hand the devastating health impacts of homelessness which we know can erase more than half a person’s life expectancy,” says Dr. Collins. “It is time to make housing for all the new normal.”
CNH3’s open letter supports the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness’ (CAEH) Recovery For All campaign. The campaign has put forward a plan detailing how the government can end homelessness by 2030 and spur Canada’s pandemic recovery at the same time: an investment in housing will stimulate the economy, creating nearly 500,000 construction and social services jobs over the next 10 years, and will save taxpayers over $18 billion.
In a recent Nanos Research poll commissioned by the CAEH, seven out of 10 Canadians indicated that they want urgent action on homelessness and over 84% of Canadians support new affordable housing that will stimulate the economy and contribute to the pandemic recovery.
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