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THE PLIGHT OF HOMELESSNESS

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Homelessness in Canada has grown in size and complexity in recent years. While historically known as a crisis only of urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal, the increasing incidence of homelessness in the suburbs is necessitating new services and resources. The demographic profile of Canada’s homeless population is also changing. In the past men used to comprise the majority of homeless persons, now women and children represent the fastest growing subgroup.

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In “Shelter From The Storm”, Michael Connolly follows one organization dedicated to eradicating the suffering that homelessness can bring though its behind-the-scenes activity -- the strategizing, the debates and the actions – which is putting homelessness into the public arena and pushing governments to act. A group of activists is working with residents of the now famous Toronto shantytown, Tent City, to move the community to a new location. This is one small campaign among many that the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee is working on to address the crisis in affordable housing. The residents of Tent City fashioned their own shelters to ensure their survival. They want a chance to get back on their feet and to do that they need affordable housing. This abandoned land on the shores of Lake Ontario that they’re squatting on is toxic with old industrial pollutants. The owner, Home Depot, wants Tent City off. The City of Toronto and the provincial Ministry of the Environment want Tent City off.

Daniel Cross’ "The Street" is a gritty portrait of 3 homeless men living on the streets near Guy metro in Montreal. Made over a period of 6 years, the film follows the ups and downs of these deteriorating lives and is an intense, intimate portrait of street life. Cross’ approach to filmmaking is as grassroots as it gets! He sees film as a medium for effecting social and political change. Daniel is best known for this feature which has won awards at film festivals around the world. One of Daniel’s most recent project is The Homeless Street Archive, which will empower homeless Canadians to tell their own stories on the Internet.

More than 28,000, according to the latest government estimate, are homeless in Montreal. Most of them converge in the downtown core, where they can maximize their income from panhandling. They're part of the landscape of the street. However there is hope - in December 2009, Quebec unveiled a new $60.5 million, three-year plan to fight homelessness, including measures to improve mid- and long-term housing options for people on the street. After a year of consultations between 10 different provincial ministries and public organizations, the plan is made up of 70 measures that address concerns "expressed by diverse groups in civil society," according to a news release issued by the Ministry of Social Services. The plan is designed to help keep more people off the streets all across Canada, while giving the homeless more housing choices, from short-term shelters to long-term residences, the Liberal government said.

Both of these documentaries shine a light on a growing social problem. Both of them form part of the solution while addressing the problem.

Additional Online Resources

United Way Toronto

Citizen Shift

Intraspec

Raising The Roof

Selected Films (2)
  1. The Street Preview Thumbnail
    The Street
    • Country:Canada
    • Year:1996
    » View Documentary
  2. Shelter from the Storm Preview Thumbnail
    Shelter from the Storm
    • Country:Canada
    • Year:2001
    » View Documentary

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