On Monday, Sue-Ann Levy, a reporter for the Toronto Sun, wrote an article damning the renewed presence of dozens of homeless on Nathan Phillips Square. She was critical of the programs addressing the issue, and called for enforcement of the "No Sleeping on the Square" bylaw that is not being enforced. http://www.torontosun.com/2012/09/10/homeless-sleeping-in-nathan-phillips-square-again
It was a typically sad demonstration of the politics and journalism of Optics. Levy's piece is essentially a rant against a social ill that dares to manifest itself in public, and on the doorstep of City Hall, no less. There's certainly nothing wrong with lamenting a social state of affairs that generates this phenomenon on our city streets. The unfortunate part is that Levy's attention is on the visibility of the problem, rather than on the problem itself, which is the existence and the condition of these homeless citizens in a wealthy society that has yet to solve the problem of homelessness.
An important admission to make at this point is that I work for Toronto's Streets to Homes program, a program which Levy's piece refers to as "overpriced", and which she suggests is ineffective. But where is Levy's research? Did she attempt any exploration as to who these homeless are? Or of the fate of the previous, homeless occupants of the square? Had she done so, she might have reported on the successful housing of dozens of people over the years, and she might have wondered why more homeless keep appearing.
And, as to the most chronic and longterm of our homeless, she might have posed a question or two about better tools to address their very real needs. Instead, she ridiculed the efforts made to provide comforts to the homeless, and advocated persistently that they be removed from sight.
Ms Levy might also have refered to some of the research, conducted last year as part of Major Ford's budget process, http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2011/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-39626.pdf , that recognized the budgetary savings and social benefits that derive from the current housing approach.
Ms Levy is absolutely right to recognize that the problem of homelessness is far from being solved. But lets continue to refine the tools already in our possession, and seek to develop new and more effective ones. Let us not merely force those who are most visible from the reach of our offended eyes. They, and We, deserve better than that.