Opinion

Editorial: Homeless youths can’t be left in the cold

We need our kids to come in from the cold.

It’s concerning that we find ourselves in a crisis situation with youth homelessness in Nanaimo, but there are positive indications that the right people are doing everything in their power to find solutions as quickly as possible.

Though our community is aware of the homelessness that exists here, there is probably a general lack of awareness about some of the realities that come along with that. We know there’s a problem, but it becomes a crisis when we think about it in terms of teenagers with no place to go on frigid December nights. Some of this week’s overnight lows are some of the coldest Nanaimo has had in recent memory.

The city’s lack of youth shelter beds was brought to council chambers last week and we think city councillors listened, heard, considered and acted in a timely fashion. There were recommendations and options and a budget figure on the table by the next meeting. Stop-gap solutions are being found to provide emergency shelter that’s safe and staffed.

Councillors showed they could co-operate in a crisis and not only were they concerned, but also frustrated that bureaucracy could cause even a single night’s delay in alleviating the problem.

What’s more, the response went beyond reactionary, as councillors asked that the city’s community vitality committee examine over the long term the issue of youth homelessness and a more permanent solution as far as cold-weather sheltering.

We share some of council’s frustration. The shelter beds can’t come soon enough. Nobody can be left outside when it’s this cold, not even for one night. Though kids are tougher than we sometimes give them credit for, in other ways, they are fragile. If they are in a situation where they are out in the cold, then that means however they got there, whatever the reasons, whoever is responsible, it’s fallen on us, as a community, province and country, to care for them and care about them.

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