A Western University nursing professor who studies poverty and health says the city needs to better address its growing poverty and homelessness problem. 

Abe Oudshoorn, who is also a member of the London Homeless Coalition, recently wrote about it in a post on his personal blog that was inspired by a series news stories about Sunny James, a homeless man who was arrested for living on the sidewalk in the city's east-end last month. 

"For me it was thinking more about how we solve this in a big picture," Oudshoorn told London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen Wednesday. 

"How do we as a community respond to people who live their private lives in public?" 


Abe Oudshoorn wrote a draft position statement for the London Homeless Coalition on his blog after he heard a series of news stories about homeless man Sunny James. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

"Sunny is not the only individual who is experiencing homelessness who comes into the public eye," he said, noting there is a growing number of people in the city who, for one reason or another, have nowhere else to go. 

As an example, Oudshoorn cited Market Lane, the public walkway between Dundas Street and the Covent Garden Market, which became a source of controversy a year ago when a consultants' report suggested that area in particular, with its vibrant street culture, was a blight on the neighbourhood. 

However, Oudshoorn said homelessness isn't just limited to the city's central business district. 

"We also see it in less obvious places," he said. "Those of us who use the Thames Valley Parkway for running, walking, biking will notice people camped down in spaces there. Or perhaps for those who work at businesses will notice who people stay in behind some of those industrial spaces." 

Tent city

Oudshoorn said homelessness is a problem all over the city and people can often be seen in makeshift camps in London's public parks and industrial areas. (Liz Hoath)

Oudshoorn believes one issue that needs to be addressed are the tickets and criminal charges handed out to homeless people by police and bylaw officers trying to dissuade them from living in public places. 

"You can't just solve that with a ticket, you can't solve that with a short-term incarceration," he said. "Chances are you'll find that person back in public spaces and possibly even in worse condition than before they got a ticket and before they went to jail."

"We want these problems solved," he said. "We want everyone to feel safe and use the community in ways that make sense." 

Oudshoorn suggests the way to make that happen to address peoples' needs by removing the barriers that stop them from becoming full participants in society and the economy. 

"Most of these individuals have complex challenges," he said, noting they range from mental health problems, to disability, even low rates of social assistance. 

"For most people on Ontario Works, to just be able to pay rent [is a challenge] because the rates are so low," he said. "The rent portion of social assistance is 376 dollars a month, our average rent for a bachelors apartment is about 600 dollars." 

Oudshoorn said fixing the problem is more difficult than just writing a position statement for the London Homeless Coalition and that it will likely require a multi-faceted solution that's years in the making.