COLUMN: Homelessness is everyone’s problem

Reporter's Viewpoint

With cold weather setting in, I am kissing sunny afternoon strolls away.

The onset of cold days and rainy nights makes me think about the people living on the streets of our city.

The Housing First strategy rolled out by the province and City of Nanaimo has been a source of contention for many residents.

There are concerns people aren’t getting enough information about the projects, as well as their locations.

There are now two vocal camps when it comes to creating housing for the homeless in the city: those who want alternative locations found and others who want it built to address the problem of homelessness.

I would like to see housing built for the homeless. I would also like to see secondary-stage housing that people could transition to after they have stabilized and started dealing with some of their issues.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to live on the streets. Just going out for a few hours in this fall weather chills me to the bone. The dampness of the air seems to seep into every part of my body.

I’m lucky. I can go home, change into heavy socks, turn up the heat and get warm. Others aren’t so lucky.

They haven’t got a place they can call their own. There are few places open during the day for them to get out of the elements.

I see many people sitting out all day in different locations of the city. They’re there almost every day in the same spots. A simple bus shelter can be a spot to sit and get relief from the rain.

The emergency shelters are filling the nighttime gap to provide a safe and warm place for people to stay. Volunteers offer a warm meal and a cozy place for the homeless to rest their heads. But are the shelters enough?

At most they are a Band-Aid solution to the problem, a temporary fix.

And although they are sorely needed, they only offer a place to stay at night. What happens to the people who use these services during the day? And what happens to the people who choose to stay out and take a chance sleeping in the rough?

There are many people in the city who want to provide housing to people who don’t have an active addiction.

And not all homeless people have addiction issues, although the percentage of people with addictions is higher in the homeless.

Addiction isn’t only confined to one segment of the population. There are people with addictions living in million dollar homes hidden from everyday view.

How is someone supposed to get clean when all their energy during the day is spent on survival?

Their main priorities are finding shelter, staying warm and getting something to eat. Some remain cold and hungry. There isn’t a lot of room to work on problems when the day is filled with basic survival procedures.

Some people argue that instead of building housing for the street homeless, there should be more housing built for low-income families and seniors.

They question why the city is building homes for this segment of the population when other people need a place to live and are struggling as well.

All types of housing are needed.

We shouldn’t squabble over who is getting the funding this round, we should be fighting to get more for our community.

We must contact the government and say we need money for other kinds of housing in our community.

Rent is becoming out of reach for far too many people who need a place to live.

There are people choosing between having a roof over their heads or food.