Winter is here and while some will be celebrating with warm blankets and hot cocoa, others will be forced to brave the cold streets and sleep on the ground. This city has a homelessness problem. Many Londoners have nowhere to live because affordable housing is hard to come by.
People have been creating their own solutions by living together in make shift tents. These communities have been on the rise in London, but have a hard time staying on the streets, as nearby residents and business owners have made it their mission to relocate them. Just this past summer, a tent community had gathered at Elizabeth and Dundas Streets in the Old East Village and were forced to vacate. When this happened, many had to find another part of town, or find a shelter that had enough room for them.
There are a number of shelters with organizations such as Unity Project, Anova and Mission services. These organizations offer temporary and emergency beds for people who would otherwise have no place to stay. However, many of these places don’t always offer the best living situations for families who will need multiple beds, warm clothes and food. Rachel Ganzewinkle is the Communications and PR coordinator for Mission Services London. She says that the organization tries to ensure that all people do not have to live on the streets.
“Often we see families that are experiencing homelessness due to a lack of affordable housing and that has been significant this year. We had 20 families staying at our shelter and that is the maximum and then we had an additional 19 families staying in motel rooms.”
Wharncliffe and Oxford and York and Richmond are just some of the major intersections that many people without homes can be seen with make-shifts signs, begging for money or offering to clean windshields. Women and young people in particular, suffer greatly while on the streets. Women often have to bear the streets as a result of abuse caused by men who forced them to find a safer place to stay.
Young people often find themselves without a home when their families are either dysfunctional or abusive. While living on the streets, drug addictions and cold weather are often responsible for the death of many of these Londoners.
Margaret Richings is a member of the London Homeless Coalition. She was homeless because of troubles holding down a job and relied heavily on London’s services.
“I had lost the only job that I had. It was temporary, short term, 10 dollars an hour, but, it was keeping me eating. When that failed and my family disowned me, I hadn’t eaten for 6 days and I ended up at one of the drop ins to eat.”
Donations are vital for these communities. Especially as Christmas is nearing, many of the shelters are asking for gently used clothing and non perishable food donations.