On May 31, the Barrie Housing and Homelessness Justice Network hosted a rally at City Hall to "Stop the War On the Poor", in response to the May 17 Direct Motion Without Notice that introduced several controversial measures to address homelessness.
One of the speakers at this rally was Damon Baldwin-Fox, whose words inspired us all. We are grateful to Damon for sharing his speech with us, so that we might share it here with you.
Damon Baldwin-Fox, BHHJN – posted with permission [emphasis ours]
Today, we gather here in unity and solidarity, as we raise our voices against the proposed amendments that seek to criminalize and stigmatize our unhoused brothers and sisters, while also making it illegal to offer them the help they so desperately need. We stand here today to fight against these harmful measures and to demand a society that embraces compassion, empathy, and support for the most vulnerable among us.
My friends, it is a sad reality that homelessness has become an epidemic in our communities. Far too many individuals and families find themselves without a roof over their heads, struggling to survive in the face of economic hardship, mental health challenges, and a lack of affordable housing. These are our neighbours, our friends, and our fellow human beings who deserve our empathy and assistance, not criminalization and stigma.
The proposed amendments that city hall is putting forth are not only heartless but also fundamentally flawed. By making it illegal to help the homeless, we are essentially punishing acts of kindness and solidarity. We are punishing those who extend a helping hand, who offer food, clothing, and a warm smile to those in need. How can we as a society stand idly by and allow compassion to be criminalized?
Criminalizing and stigmatizing the unhoused not only deepens their suffering but also perpetuates a cycle of marginalization and exclusion. It pushes our most vulnerable community members further into the shadows, making it even more challenging for them to access the support and resources they desperately require. This is not the kind of society we should strive for, nor is it the world we want to leave for future generations.
We must recognize that homelessness is not a choice, but rather a symptom of a deeply flawed system that fails to address the root causes of poverty and inequality.
It is our collective responsibility to address these systemic issues and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable housing, mental health services, and a livable income. Criminalizing the unhoused only serves to distract us from the real solutions we should be pursuing. My friends, it is time to hold city hall accountable. We elected our representatives to serve and protect the interests of all community members, including the most vulnerable. We must demand that our elected officials reject these harmful amendments and instead focus on implementing compassionate and comprehensive solutions. We demand that they invest in affordable housing initiatives, increase funding for mental health services, and create pathways to stable employment.
Today, as we raise our voices together, we send a clear message to city hall and to society as a whole: We will not stand by as the unhoused are criminalized and marginalized. We will not accept a society that turns a blind eye to the suffering of our fellow human beings. We demand justice, compassion, and real solutions.
Let us march forward, united in our conviction, knowing that together, we have the power to effect change.
Let us challenge the narrative of criminalization and stigma, and replace it with one of empathy and support.
Let us build a society where no one is left behind, where we lift each other up in times of need, and where the unhoused are treated with dignity and respect.
In closing, let us remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Let us be the agents of change, the champions of justice, and the voices for the voiceless. Together, we can create a society that is founded on the principles of compassion, equality, and solidarity.
Thank you, and let our collective voice reverberate through the streets, inspiring change and shaping a brighter future for all.