Recently, I heard a report on CBC radio about the tradition of boarding houses and how city officials and planners are beginning to recognize and respect them as truly affordable housing solutions for thousands of Torontonians.
They were interviewing someone who was down on his luck due to health reasons and how a boarding house really helped him out since the rent was low enough that he could afford it while on welfare. They also interviewed a boarding home owner in Etobicoke who commented that his boarders are “mostly good” but “once in a while” he found problems and had to kick someone out.
They explained that the stigma around rooming houses is changing since they have been, in the past, places housing people with substance abuse issues. But, in fact, today they often house students, seniors, and people whose wages are not enough to afford much of anything else. They can be short term or, for some, much longer term. This interview can be found online, on the CBC radio website, under the Metro Morning show files.
I don’t write this to try and diminish whatsoever any other efforts in Nelson to help with homelessness issues but this radio segment got me thinking; Nelson could really use some boarding houses. I know the new Stepping Stones homeless shelter now has some longer term rooms with one meal a day provided. This style of offering a “hand up” kind of housing makes a lot of sense.
How else can someone afford rent and food on basic welfare’s meagre budget or on minimum wage? And, the great thing is that the conversion from a home to a boarding house is very minimal. It requires hardly any extra infrastructure. And, if there can be a way of someone cooking at least one meal a day for boarders, buying groceries in bulk is often a great savings. Of course, as the radio program outlined, it has its challenges but, moreover, it is a hugely positive, accessible solution for many of our most vulnerable citizens in need of truly affordable housing.