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The Emergency Declaration of Homelessness as a National Disaster - The ONE PERCENT SOLUTION

This week [1/29/99] the OHPE Bulletin is presenting the Launch of the "One Percent Solution" letter writing campaign, to deal with the National Disaster of Homelessness. Not only does it deserve attention and action, it is an excellent example of community health advocacy!

THE ONE PERCENT SOLUTION - Letter-writing Campaign on National Housing

This is the latest initiative from the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee - a letter-writing campaign, aimed at the federal government, asking for the funds to start a national housing strategy. We are asking them to spend an additional 1% of their annual budgets to do so - hence we call our proposal the "One Percent Solution." We believe that this additional 1% of spending will eliminate the homelessness disaster in 3-5 years. Please help us by writing these letters and asking as many people and groups as you know to do the same!

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The One Percent Solution:

Towards a National Housing Strategy


To Endorsers of the Emergency Declaration of Homelessness as a National Disaster

Dear Friends,

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) asks you and/or your organization to join our national letter-writing campaign, aimed at the Federal Government, putting forth our demand for a National Housing Strategy. In particular, we propose the "One Percent Solution," which requires that all levels of government spend one percent more of their existing total budgets on housing than they now do, to end the National Disaster of Homelessness. The upcoming federal budget will appear at the end of February; this letter writing campaign will press for the budget to deal with the Homelessness Disaster.

More than 1100 individuals and 400 organizations, including hospitals, numerous health organizations, AIDS services organizations, community services and faith organizations have declared that homelessness is a National Disaster. The city councils of Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa-Carleton and Nepean, and the mayors of 10 of Canada's largest cities, have done the same. The Federal government must respond in an emergency mode!

The following three pages give you information you can use to participate in this campaign: Page 1 outlines the TDRC's position on combating the National Disaster of Homelessness with the "One Percent Solution;" page 2 gives background facts on the housing situation in Canada; and page 3 suggests how to write your letter(s), including necessary addresses and fax numbers.

Yours Truly,

Cathy Crowe, R.N.


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The One Percent Solution: Towards a National Housing Strategy

The "One Percent Solution"

In the long term, we must eliminate homelessness. Emergency measures, such as adequate shelters, food, and health care, though imperative now, will not serve forever. We need a permanent National Housing Strategy. Canada holds the unenviable distinction of being the only industrialized country without one. To fund this historic initiative, the TDRC proposes that all levels of government spend one percent more of their existing total budgets on housing than they now do. This One Percent Solution would be the single largest step towards ending homelessness in this country.

On average, the federal, provincial and municipal governments of Canada spend about one percent of their total budgets on housing; in 1994-95, they spent $3.83 billion out of a total of $358 billion. An increase of one percent would hence double the amount now spent and would go far towards ending homelessness in the next three to five years.

Doubling the amount spent would not only substantially increase the number of housing units but would also increase the support services for people who need housing. There would be funding for new construction, renovation of existing units and subsidies for people on low incomes.

The past three decades have known many housing success stories across the country. We have a wealth of knowledge about how to provide good housing and support services; we lack only the resources to get the job done and end the suffering that homeless people in Canada face in the streets and shelters every day. The federal government must take the lead. They not only have the largest budget, but would obviously play the key role in a National Housing Strategy.

It's time for all levels of government to take up the One Percent Solution and end the National Disaster of Homelessness.

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Background on Housing in Canada

Canada has a past record of success in housing. Federal, provincial and municipal governments have funded many community-based housing projects that are providing good homes to hundreds of thousands of women, men and children. But recently, governments decided to stop funding the development of new housing projects.

In 1996, the federal government announced a plan to transfer responsibility for federal social housing programs to the provinces and territories. So far, it has signed deals with five provinces and two territories. If Ottawa continues the transfer, Canada will be the only developed country in the world without a national affordable housing program!

Ottawa stopped funding the development of new affordable housing in 1992. The Ontario government killed its development program in 1995. Only British Columbia and Quebec still have small programs to help develop new affordable housing.

The overall rental vacancy rate (proportion of units vacant) for Canada dropped from 4.1 per cent in October 1997 to 3.4 per cent in October 1998. This low rental vacancy rate flags the growing homelessness crisis. When there is not enough housing, and when homes are too expensive, people are forced out onto the streets.

Canada has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guaranteeing everyone's right to "an adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing." Homeless people have no decent standard of living; our governments are therefore violating these Human Rights.

The federal budget comes out in late February. After years of cutting social programs, including housing, the federal government has now officially eliminated the deficit. They have money to re-invest in the affordable housing that so many in Canada desperately need; the 1999 federal budget is a good place to start!

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How To Write Your Letter

Write to your federal Member of Parliament (MP), to your federal Cabinet Ministers, and to the Prime Minister. Tell them you want a National Housing Strategy and the One Percent Solution. Letter-writing can effectively convince politicians to act; they know that if one person takes the time to write a letter, probably at least 100 other people hold the same opinion. The most effective letters are written in your own words. Here are a few tips:

Introduce yourself in the first paragraph. Say why you are concerned about the homeless disaster. If you have a personal connection (a friend, a relative, perhaps even yourself), mention it here.

2. Demand that the next federal budget include money for the development of new affordable housing. Talk about the One Percent Solution. The fact sheet gives some background information.

3. The letter need not be long, nor typed or printed; in fact, hand-written letters have even more effect.

4. End by asking the politician to reply, and to speak to colleagues, the housing minister, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister.

You can write one letter to your federal MP and then copy the other politicians, or write each separately. If you can please fax your letters; the House of Commons is recessed until February. All letters to the House of Commons go postage-free. We suggest you write to the following at:

- - (Name of Minister), House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 - -

Hon. Jean Chretien, Prime Minister. Tell him to address the National Disaster of Homelessness in Canada NOW! (Fax 613-941-6900)

Your Federal Member of Parliament (MP). Your MP's name is listed in the Canada section of your telephone book's blue pages.

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano, MP. Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Tell him to put housing back on the federal agenda. (Fax 613-992-8523)

Hon. Paul Martin, MP. Finance Minister. Insist that the One Percent Solution be part of the next federal budget. (Fax 613-992-4284)

Hon. David Collenette, MP. Minister Responsible for the Greater Toronto Area. Tell him the government must address homelessness. (Fax 613-995-0327)

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The policy implications from the data in Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness are clear: All three levels of government must be involved in finding solutions to homelessness. The groups most at risk of homelessness are more highly concentrated in Toronto than elsewhere in the GTA or the province. Many of the city's problems originate outside Toronto.

The Federal Government has an indisputable role to play arising from its historically pivotal role in social housing development, as well as its responsibilities for immigration and Aboriginal policies.

The Provincial Government has an indisputable role to play arising from its responsibilities in the areas of health, mental health, housing and social services.

The [municipal level] can take the lead by focussing attention on the issue, and by bringing all levels of government and relevant players together. It can assist in creating additional affordable housing through property tax policy, land use regulation, financing, and the supply of land, for example. (FOR FULL REPORT SEE: )

If you wish to copy or write to politicians at the provincial and municipal level as well....

Also check for Ontario politicians' addresses and for Ontario Municipal government listings, and, finally, for links to other provincial government listings

Please also copy your letter(s) to us at the TDRC. Thank you!


6 Trinity Square, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5G 1B1 Office Phone (416) 599-TDRC (8372) Office Fax (416) 599-5445