Homeless statue a bad idea

The City of Edmonton is considering spending $36,000 on a statue to honour dead homeless people, when the money could be much better used to help living, breathing homeless citizens instead.

The City of Edmonton is considering spending $36,000 on a statue to honour dead homeless people, when the money could be much better used to help living, breathing homeless citizens instead.

In what sounds like a scene from The Simpsons, a council committee recently recommended that a list of public art projects receive grants, including a $35,815 request to build a statue memorializing Edmontonians who have died from homelessness.

The statue has yet to be approved by city council as a whole; however, if and when it is approved, the initiative will be funded entirely by tax dollars, not donations.

Surely the money earmarked for the statue could be better employed providing food and shelter for the homeless.

But that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it?

One wonders if the councillors who gave the initial green light to the project are more interested in recognizing the homeless or subsidizing an artist with public funds.

How is the statue really going to benefit homeless people? Will they be able to eat it? Can they sleep under it? Not likely.

It’s no wonder that people are losing respect for government.

We’ve got $2-million fake lakes being created in Toronto and $36,000 statues on the drawing board in Edmonton.

Of course, helping the downtrodden with public funds is often controversial.

In some cases, politicians spearhead charitable efforts simply to boost their own image — with taxpayers’ money — rather than sincerely wanting to help the poor. This is especially obvious during election years.

Similarly, though most corporations that support charities have their hearts in the right place, some companies spend more money advertising their good deeds than they do on the good deeds themselves.

You have to wonder about a company’s motives when it advertises: ‘Buy our product and we’ll donate a (unspecified, tiny) donation to charity for each $20 widget sold.’

In a column printed elsewhere on this page, Potters Hands soup kitchen co-ordinator Chris Salomons writes: “One company, when their business was seasonally slow, rather than lay their people off, kept them on the payroll while they came and volunteered at the (Potters Hands) kitchen.”

That’s true generosity, and really nice to see.

That company has defined for all of us what is probably the quintessential aspect of a truly generous gift: anonymity.

Unfortunately, if someone makes an anonymous donation of money or time, you’ll likely never hear about it. The person is acting altruistically and doesn’t want any recognition.

Such a gift is really from the heart.

In any case, it seems like a no-brainer that the Edmonton statue for the homeless is ridiculous.

If it’s ever built, it will a stand as a monument to government waste and disrespect for the real needs of homeless people.

Should it be built, it should be attached to a plaque bearing the names of the city councillors who voted to waste $36,000 on a project that will help to house no one.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.