Tag Archives: Homelessness

Defunding the Police

Defunding the Police

When I was a Regional Councillor, every year we struggled over the budget, trying to get it down to a 1 or 2 percent increase. We would debate adding a million to our social service budget for “unnecessary” items that had been cut back by the provincial government. Things like eyeglasses, walkers, food hampers and dental care for the working poor. Eventually we put money towards some of these necessities for the poor. Money, but not enough, was added for social housing. Transit fares were increased. And so on. We would get the budget down to our 1 or 2 percent goal.

Then the police budget was added. If we were at 1 percent increase, the police budget would add another 1 percent (even though the police budget might actually be going up 3 to 5 percent or more). Half the Region’s budget increase was policing. Other than sending the police budget back to the police board to par down, Regional Council had no way of cutting or changing the police budget due to provincial law. We had to pay it from property taxes though.

The police are expensive. The WRPS 2020 budget, as passed, had an increase of 6,25% for a budget of almost 200 million dollars. This came out to a 1.38% property tax increase versus a Regional operating budget of 1%. Over 90% of the police budget goes to compensation ( paying people).

Defunding the police does not mean getting rid of the police. We will always have sex traffickers, assaults, child porn, fraud, murders, and theft. What defunding the police means is moving funds to what the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has been advocating for over 25 years. Not well being, but social development. We need to stop pulling drowning people out of the water and go up stream to stop them falling in.

In an interview with NPR, Alex S. Vitale, the author of the 2017 book The End of Policing, states:

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

This also includes illegal drugs and all the problems they bring with them. Fentanyl and meth are still a crisis. They did not go away when COVID-19 appeared. Poverty and unemployment have increased. Social problems are not the responsibility of the police but they end up the last resort in times of crisis.

A few years ago, a family member disappeared and we were afraid he was going to commit suicide. When he was found, the police had a civilian mental health team with them. The team defused the situation and the police did not have to go to emergency with our family member (who is fine now) . Police and EMS spend a lot of unnecessary costly time in Emerg waiting for their patient to be moved over to hospital staff.

Counselling, drug and addiction services, homeless shelters and social housing, immigrant and employment services, youth services, sexual assault counselling, mental health, Family and Children’s Services, the food bank, Community Justice Initiatives and more are always chronically short of funds. Recently many have had government funds cut by the province. In this time of pandemic, their charitable donations have dried up.

What if all the organizations in our community that practice crime prevention by social development got a 5 or 6 percent increase per year from our governments. Police would not be the organization of last resort for addiction, mental health, poverty and homelessness emergencies. We wouldn’t need so many police and those we would have could turn their attention to serious and complicated crimes. They would be properly defunded.

Why the One Roof Pilot Didn’t Get Funding

The following is written by Regional Chair Ken Seiling.

Funding for Roof Pilot – February 5, 2016

A number of people have written to me and/or members of Regional Council with regard to the Roof pilot project which had requested funding through the Region. Hopefully the following information will help you better understand the situation. Unfortunately, media coverage had not carried the full story to date and left some incorrect assumptions of what has happened. This same response is being sent to all of those who emailed my office or various Regional Councillors.

The Province of Ontario revised and consolidated many of its programs with regards to homelessness. In doing so, it provided funding and greater flexibility to allow municipalities to better structure its supportive hosing and homelessness programs. Approximately $3.5 million was given to the Region to support better and increased funding for the hard to house and homeless population. This has long been identified as a pressing need in the community. Not only was there a need to provide more supports to housing providers but there was a need to upgrade many of the facilities operated under the former domiciliary hostel program.

To do this, the Region designed both new and improved facility standards and the ability to finance the staffing necessary for supportive housing. It then issued a call for proposals. Those applying had to meet the new standards. If they did, then they had to identify the number of beds they would provide and the costs.

In the report attached you will see that the Region awarded 291 beds to various agencies and groups at an average cost of approximately $9300 for a total of $2,704,466. There were a number that did not qualify either for not meeting the base requirements or because their costs were too high. Roof already receives assistance to operate its main program but had begun a pilot funded by a foundation. Their proposal was for 10 beds. Although they met the base requirements, their funding request was for $678,000.00 for the 10 beds, a cost of approximately $68,000 per bed. The proposal was simply too costly and to fund it would have meant reducing the number of beds to others in need by almost 73 beds. We simply could not sacrifice 73 badly needed supportive housing beds, real people in our community in need of supportive housing, for the 10 beds of this program. I think it is also important to note that all of the programs awarded beds do take people from the age of 16.

Although it would be great if we could fund every program, the reality is that our budget is set (at not an insignificant amount), that some of the submissions were too costly, and that our mandate  is to get the greatest number of people in need into a safe and good supportive housing situation, in some cases off the streets.  In summary, to fund  this particular program at this cost would have meant leaving more than 70 people without good supportive housing and in some cases possibly in homeless situations.

The balance of the funds are being used to provide supports to Cambridge residents where there were insufficient responses from organizations to award beds. Individual programs will be funded for these people using the balance of the funds.

The impression in the media coverage is that Regional Council has cut funding to ROOF. This is not the case. ROOF has received and will continue to receive approximately $250,000 per year from our funding program. What they applied for was NEW funding for a 10 bed pilot which was not previously funded by the Region. The application was not approved for the reasons outlined above. ROOF will continue to receive its funding to provide services to young people and this has not been cut.

Regional Council in its wisdom sought to properly house the greatest number of people it could with the funds it had at its disposal. This comes just after the Region picked up more than $2 million in discretionary benefits to people in poverty that the Province had discontinued funding.

I have attached the Regional Council reports so that you can read more fully what was done and why. Community Services Nov 2015, (It is the first report)  and Report on page 40 of Dec 2015 Community Services

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Thanks to CTV Kitchener and One Roof on Twitter for correcting the impression that One Roof is closing. The Record had the correct information that it was a pilot — Jane.