“Homelessness is bad for business and the federal government does not have a national plan to end homelessness in Canada.” Those are the opening words in powerful resolution from the Burnaby Board of Trade, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Board of Trade that will be debated by delegates to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The resolution (starting on page 74 of the Chamber’s resolution book) has been backed by the Special Issues Committee of the Chamber. The Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010 identifies people who are homeless as key priorities for a new national housing plan.
The Chamber of Commerce is the national body that represents more than 300 local boards of trade and chambers of commerce which, in turn, represent more than 175,000 local businesses. An increasing number of local business groups are insisting that there is a business interest in good social policy. “Homelessness has a direct financial impact on businesses as it deters customers, damages employee recruitment and retention, harms tourism and discourages companies from setting up offices in areas with a visible homeless population,” according to the Burnaby resolution. “For many municipalities and business communities in Canada, homelessness is a real problem that requires expenditures on security upgrades to maintain the safety of staff and property. Businesses cannot realize their full potential while homelessness exists in their areas, due to reduced revenues through lost sales.”
“A national plan to end homelessness will clearly set the goals, objectives, metrics and outcomes for all homelessness initiatives and will provide the proper mechanisms to more effectively address the issue. Without a clear strategy to direct national efforts to end homelessness, businesses will continue to be negatively impacted by the growing crisis,” says the Burnby resolution.
“Since the federal government needs to contain spending on programs, and because it would not be socially and economically prudent to cut funding for homelessness initiatives, a viable course of action would be to reallocate funds from the federal budget to develop a national plan to end homelessness,” urges the Burnaby BOT.
In its report, the WI notes that federal expenditures on homelessness and affordable housing have failed to keep pace with inflation and the growth in population from 1989 to 2009; and that the federal government is “stepping out” of its housing and homelessness investments. By 2013, federal housing program spending will drop by 18% to $1.9 billion, the federal Affordable Housing Initiative will drop to just $1 million for the entire country and funding will be cut to zero for the federal homelessness strategy and the federal housing rehabilitation program.
The WI report notes that maintaining spending at the 2009 level and targeting the investments would fund a 10-year national housing and homelessness plan.