Editorial: Homelessness task force has to be more than misdirection

Task force won’t be able to address all the challenging issues that come before Nanaimo council

Some of Nanaimo’s most pressing social problems aren’t hidden. Every day citizens are confronted by homelessness, poverty, unaffordable housing and mental illness and addictions, personally affected in one way or another.

The City of Nanaimo has plans and strategies, so it would be a disservice to the community and the work done in putting those plans together not to try to take advantage and see if anything can be done.

Nanaimo council tried to take action last week with the creation of a task force on health and housing. The terms of reference for the new group suggest that it will take a lead in working to implement aspects of the city’s action plan to end homelessness and the affordable housing strategy, both endorsed by the previous council.

A Nanaimo RCMP task force was recently set up to try to reduce crime in the areas around temporary supportive housing complexes on Terminal Avenue and Labieux Road. Police were confident the extra manpower would have the desired effect, but some of that combats only symptoms – not so much the causes – of the layers of contributing social problems.

This city council-led task force has a chance to look at those causes by working with those who, according to city staff, have a desire to implement strategies.

RELATED: City of Nanaimo creates new task force on homelessness

The action plan to end homelessness noted that the city “lacks an adequate process for intervening in the early stages of street involvement” before individuals become habitually homeless. It also pointed to the Nanaimo housing and rental market, which tightened significantly between 2014 and 2016 and exacerbated a growing gap between income and housing affordability.

This task force is important because if it’s not effective, then it becomes just misdirection, something the City of Nanaimo and councillors can point to when challenged, to show they’re trying.

No one has ever suggested that some of the problems that ail Nanaimo and our people will be solved any other way than bit by bit. One task at a time, if you will.


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