Safety on our streets has been front and centre recently with the deployment of Alberta Sheriffs to downtown Calgary. The move is intended to deter social disorder and the visible effects of the opioid crisis on CTrain lines.
Many people welcome this new enforcement approach because of their perception of the rise of crime in our city. And people deserve to feel safe in public spaces and using transit, but we see things differently at VCC. More “boots on the ground” doesn't address the root causes of why social disorder exists. So, what do we suggest?
- Affordable Housing: Calgary has very low rental vacancy rates and only 2.6% of Calgary’s housing units are subsidized – significantly lower than the rest of Canada. The City of Calgary’s latest announcement to address the need for affordable housing is a first step, but more funding is urgently needed from of the provincial and federal government to help the over 81,000 households in Calgary in need of affordable housing.
- A range of options for addiction support: While we’re pleased to see the recent provincial announcement for new addictions and mental health funding, an effective system involves meeting people where they are at, while reducing the likelihood of harm and death. It means people have options to achieve sobriety — or use drugs under the supervision of a nurse — instead of in public spaces.
- Income floors: It’s time for the federal government to work with the provinces to establish an income floor, otherwise known as a basic income, to support individuals to pursue educational opportunities, entrepreneurship and job transitions in response to a persistently changing economy. A basic income alongside a robust social support system ensures people can meet their basic needs and no one is left behind.
- Mental Health support: Canadians looking for mental health services today are faced with long wait times and a limited number of affordable options. While it’s positive that the government provided funding for Counselling Alberta to enable more access to virtual counselling services, only 6% of Alberta’s health budget is allocated to mental health resources when the Canadian Mental Health Association recommends double that.
Sheriffs are a band-aid. Until we can address systems that aren’t working and driving more and more people into poverty, we’ll continue to see social disorder.