Monday, February 19, 2007



A number of readers asked me to expand on why I supported the NPA and their decision Not to enact an SRO anti-conversion bylaw. Posted below are my answers.

You asked me why I think Council made a smart decision to oppose the anti-conversion by-law.
My reasons are varied, including the belief that there is a multitude of reasons why people become homeless and just enacting an anti-conversion by-law, in my opinion, fails to adequately address why people end up homeless.

We need to also reframe what homelessness is and I happen to be of the belief that its more than just a matter of sleeping outside, without a roof over your head at night.
Again, like most other people I prefer not to see fellow human beings coping or suffering in this way. It pains me to see this.

I often ask myself why is it that people end up this way. As one who has walked in their shoes, I think this provides me an inside vantage point to better understand issues around poverty. In turn, this allows me to speak out forcefully on behalf of lower income citizens. . Moreover, as I lobby on behalf of my neighbors without financial benefit to myself, this ensures my brand of advocacy is kept clean in terms of advocating for my neighbors in the DTES. Many times I have witnessed groups exploitating the poor and this is concerning.

I do not want to see people entrenched in substandard conditions which make it very difficult to climb out from.

I see billions of dollars going into the DTES and has it truly helped those living in dire poverty?
My philosophy goes directly to this question of whether enacting an anti-conversion bylaw on crumbling SRO's really helps poor people?

Some believe maintaining people in squalid conditions is better than having people sleeping outside. I disagree with them on this point. You see to me, neither one of these options goes to the heart of Justice.

And just to be clear, I'd rather fight for Justice. That means I'm advocating for appropriate, clean, healthy, safe affordable quality housing for all. I'm not willing to settle for less, nor am I willing to tell people they must live in substandard housing until they find that elusive pot of gold.

In summary, I want us to re-think and re-frame what homelessness is.
And while others are advocating to maintain a substandard form of housing, I'd rather be fighting for real solutions.

And let me be very clear here. Justice isn't about throwing around tables or yelling and screaming out obscenities while viguorously pushing to maintain people in deplorable social conditions. For activists promoting this brand of advocacy, all it really accomplishes is-- the inflicting of further harm on those who already have been placed time and time again, in harm's way.

How is that a solution?

Jamie Lee Hamilton