Now that the tents are no longer pitched on city hall property, we’ll find out more about the community’s compassion toward homelessness.
There might be a few hundred people in Nanaimo who are experiencing homelessness and whether that constitutes a crisis is probably a matter of opinion. We do know that the wants and needs of the people who camped on Nanaimo City Hall property this month were top-of-mind for a week and a half, and now some of the immediacy is gone.
While the protest camp popped up without warning, the municipality wasn’t unprepared. We know that some of the measures that the city approved as part of its $350,000 spending announcement had been in the works for some time, although presumably fast-tracked in response to the camp-out.
When the campers were evicted and moved on first to one park, then another, the issues and the realities didn’t go away. One of the advocates asked city councillors if they would prefer that the homeless people who were on city hall property returned to areas in the woods. The question was posed to the some of the city’s leaders, but it could have been posed to any of us, and it’s difficult to answer.
As the campers keep being asked to move along, they’re asking what their rights are, and that’s something their advocates are asking, too, and it quickly becomes complicated when there are bylaw rules and other people’s rights to consider, too.
The city came up with some responses when it needed to. Other responses, such as supportive housing, weren’t delivered. With other levels of government and all kinds of agencies sharing responsibility, actions just need to keep coming in bits and pieces.
In the meantime, we wonder whether our community and others are seeing homelessness when it isn’t there in front of us.