When should you sound the alarm?

  • Alarm Symbol

Monty Laskin - CEO CCSWhen does a community service agency sound the alarm that there’s a serious problem that needs addressing? Not just a problem, a serious problem. Community organizations need to be careful, right? Cry wolf too many times and each time it’s only a dog, well, you’re going to have a few problems soon. We sounded the alarm on food nutrition and access to healthy food a year ago and that caused the right people to take notice. People who wanted to make a difference. They have.

We arc opening The Exchange in the Fall, on Healy Road in Bolton, due to support that every community project dreams about. Johnson Chou Inc. has designed The Exchange with stunning aesthetics and brilliant design. Solmar Development Inc. has corralled their trades and is building the place, from top to bottom, inside and out. Mars Canada is investing $25,000 for each of five years. Town Council has designated it as the beneficiary of their annual golf tournament. The Graham Family Foundation has donated key start-up funds, in excess of $100,000. This extraordinary support will allow The Exchange to thoroughly consume (pun intended!) our nutrition challenges and Caledon’s serious problem of access to healthy food.

There are problems in this community daily. Most of them are taken apart, scrutinized and assigned resources so that they can be solved. Combine very good people with good minds and make the right kinds of resources available to them and Caledon’s problems get solved. Caledon Council, the business community, faith leaders, families from all over this enormous community and myriad other stakeholders come together and get the job done. And CCS always feel charged, and privileged, to be part of solutions.

We go about our business with our partners and friends and we help, any way we can, to solve community problems. We don’t usually sound alarms because there’s no need. Most problems are not of the serious variety; they’re tough but not intractable.

We do, however, sound the alarms on the serious problems. Like being hungry every single day when you go to school and not getting to eat broccoli and carrots for three weeks straight.

So here’s the thing: We’re about to sound the alarm on what we think is a serious problem, not just a problem. But we’re not completely sure if this is serious and we’re hoping some Enterprise readers will weigh in with Letters to the Editor.

Best to just describe it and capture your attention. Maybe that’ll prevent it from becoming serious. Or is our judgement clouded and we should be
clanging the bells already, yelling at the tops of our lungs that we have a serious problem in Caledon? Please, you tell us…

Six new families or individuals dropping into our office every month looking for a place to stay, having slept the previous night in a car, the ravine or the Bolton Inn; a 17-year old straight A student couch surfing between three families for three months because his parents are divorced and neither is offering him any housing support; a family evicted and without a paycheque because she lost her job and he is extremely ill with a chronic disease; and a single mom being threatened with eviction because she’s behind in her rent, which consumes more than 60 per cent of her monthly income. Do we have a garden variety problem on our hands or is this a serious problem?

A new report released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) isn’t afraid to sound the alarm on this. For them it is all about the shortage of affordable rental housing, which threatens Canada’s economic recovery. The report. No Vacancy: Rental Housing Trends in Canada, notes that the shortage of rental housing is worsening. And to make matters worse, this is at the same time that more Canadians are being priced
out of home ownership.

This report suggests that renewed investment in rental housing is crucial to protect the country’s economic recovery. It creates new construction jobs, gives low-income Canadians more affordable housing options and eases pressure on the home-ownership market where mortgages account for almost 70 per cent of household debt.

So back to that pivotal question. When should CCS sound the alarm that housing options for the most economically-challenged residents of Caledon are inadequate? Or should we at all? The vision of Caledon Community Services is, “A healthy, engaged, compassionate community for all”. Not a chance we can reach it without appropriate and affordable housing lor our lowest income Caledon neighbours. Until we do reach that vision, we’ll continue to ask that the right kind of housing lor lowcr-incomc residents remain a priority for this community. It’s the right thing to do. It just requires shared will and shared values to do it. Docs it require the alarms to be sounded? You tell us.

Monty Laskin is the Chief Executive Officer for Caledon Community Services. His columns appear monthly in The Enterprise

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