Silent march through Kitchener and Waterloo highlights ‘invisible’ homelessness in region
Shelters across the region are often at capacity yet homelessness remains an issue invisible to the general public.
WATERLOO REGION — Shelters across the region are often at capacity yet homelessness remains an issue invisible to the general public.
“There’s a lot of silence around homelessness, some of us are talking but no one really seems to be listening,” said Charles Nichols, founder of Homelessness Awareness Week.
Nichols, partnered with the Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo , kicked off the awareness week with a silent walk down King Street on Monday.
About a dozen supporters carried signs reading “Stepping Up, Speaking Up” — this year’s campaign slogan — and wore white masks to represent the invisibility of those experiencing homelessness.
Nichols said he decided to start an awareness campaign having gone through several periods of homelessness, as recently as in 2006.
“We’ve almost become part of the woodwork and society has just kind of accepted that this is how it is, (but) it shouldn’t be acceptable,” he said.
“We are people with the same hopes and dreams and the same right to those hopes and dreams, no one should be without a home.”
Lack of full-time or well-compensated employment, the high cost of housing, abusive relationships, addiction and mental illness are among the plethora of social problems that lead to homelessness, said Mike Savage, one of the organizers of the walk who also works with shelters in the community.
Seniors on fixed incomes who can no longer afford the rising cost of rent and youth escaping violence at home are the two most vulnerable groups experiencing homelessness, Savage added.
With many factors that lead to homelessness, more than one solution is needed to help keep people off the streets.
“There is no one solution because everybody is an individual,” said Savage, adding that the work at SHOW — or Supportive Housing of Waterloo — is one viable option.
Different models of supportive housing are necessary to help people transition out of homelessness. While housing comes at a cost, both Savage and Nichols argued that it doesn’t amount to the costs of medical care, legal support or incarceration that the homeless often end up facing as a result of their situation.
And the solution doesn’t stop at housing.
Policies and programs that address factors that lead to homelessness, like establishing a living wage or skills training, are also needed, Savage said.
For the situation to improve, both the general public and governments must make homelessness a priority and take a collaborative approach in developing solutions.
“We want people to know that we do have a serious problem, that there are solutions, but we need to stand up and have some vision … of a better Canada,” Savage said.
Homelessness awareness events are scheduled throughout the week. A “Speaking Up” panel will be held at the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda Tuesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. to educate the public on the complexities of homelessness.
An awards ceremony will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at Kitchener City Hall to celebrate those who have help create change regarding issues of homelessness.
More information can be found at the Homelessness Awareness Week website .
Get forecast by town or city
Possible matches are listed below. Please select a location from the list below or enter a new location in the text box above.