Calling people experiencing homelessness squatters divides neighbours along lines of class, says letter writer. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: People who are homeless are residents, not squatters

Column’s sneering at homeless people puts forward a few skewed claims, says letter writer

To the editor,

Re: Too few questioning homelessness myth-making, Opinion, Oct. 25.

Tom Fletcher’s angry, extended sneer (hardly a column) against homeless people puts forward a few skewed or unjustifiable claims that need to be addressed.

First, Fletcher suggests that tent cities tend to be features of the “soft-politics urban regions” of B.C. as if they are unique here. This is not true as conditions of poverty see “tent camps” springing up in every province as people have few or no other options. The politics that support housing as an investment rather than a human right are hardly “soft-politics.” They have quite harsh outcomes.

Second, Fletcher waves the standard stigmatizing banners of “do[ing] anything but work to support their bad habits.” Many of what Fletcher himself calls the “new generation of street people” are in fact working formal jobs. It could also be added that living on the streets is itself hard work as is maintaining a camp site.

Third, Fletcher complains that homeless people and their supporters are organizing. Why wouldn’t they? Businesses organize, investors organize, politicians organize, police organize. It only makes sense that people with minimal resources, facing life or death circumstances would organize to take care of each other.

Fourth, Fletcher makes a distinction between “residents” and homeless people or “squatters.” This is false. The homeless people living in our neighbourhoods are also residents. Making such a false distinction is a way of dividing neighbourhoods along lines of class, property, and ownership, and nothing more.

Finally, Fletcher offers a few anecdotes from his acceptable “residents” but says nothing about the fact that some residents in Nanaimo, who pose themselves as respectable citizens, have aligned themselves with the neo-fascist Soldiers of Odin to confront people living at the tent city. That is where anti-homeless rhetoric can lead.

Contrary to Fletcher, this resident has had enough of poverty, homelessness, social deprivation and the forces of accumulation, development, speculation, and policing that sustain them. I welcome any homeless person in my neighbourhood – a neighbour.

Jeff Shantz, Department of Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Surrey

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Feel compassion for those who are outside in the cold

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PHOTOS: City cleans up Discontent City homeless camp

The views and opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Black Press or the Nanaimo News Bulletin. If you have a different view, we encourage you to write to us or contribute to the discussion below.

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