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Rural homelessness

DAN CEARNS The Standard

While in Ontario, we've benefitted from a slightly lighter winter season in terms of snow and ice through the early winter months, it seems like it has started to catch up with colder temperatures and larger snowfall events.

While the snow, for some, will create mixed feelings about having to shovel it off your driveway or how it may look like a pretty landscape, right now, for me, it's making me think of the less fortunate.

When speaking with local foodbank volunteers these last few years, I've heard several of their members have increased substantially. At a Kawartha Lakes council meeting I attended recently, a resident made a deputation saying he had taken in a number of people who were homeless because the shelter was at capacity.

Costs continue to rise and so too does the crisis. As inflation impacts groceries, gas, and other costs, more and more people are struggling to get by.

You may not see the impact of homelessness on the community, as usually in rural municipalities, it comes in the form of people couch surfing. This term means someone who sleeps at friends' or acquaintances' homes because they can't afford their own place to sleep.

In the Autumn of last year, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) wrote, "Urgent action is needed to move beyond crisis response and tackle the root causes of homelessness with solutions which address housing, income security, and health." AMO also wrote, "As homelessness has become more visible, more people are recognizing it must be addressed. There is growing momentum for governments to commit to ending homelessness."

While the Christmas holiday season has ended for some, I think we need to still think compassionately about those struggling. Think about what you can do to assist organizations like food banks in your community or North House, an Uxbridge based organization committed to preventing homelessness. Keep apprised and ask your municipal, provincial and federal representatives questions on what their governments are doing to impact this crisis.

While acknowledging it's not an easy problem to solve, I think the first step is realizing the problem exists and is growing. Now, let's see what we can do to help.

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