To the editor,
Some social progressives argue that Nanaimo’s homeless are long-term residents and victims who just need housing, drugs and compassion to become useful members of society.
Some social conservatives argue that Nanaimo’s homeless are criminal, mentally ill addicts from elsewhere who should be shipped off-Island.
As with most things, facts and effective solutions do not align entirely with either side of the political spectrum.
Some of our homeless are a danger to themselves and others and need to be involuntarily institutionalized under the existing Mental Health Act. Some of our homeless are chronic offenders who need to be held to account more effectively by a strengthened criminal justice system, along with those criminals who prey on them. Some of our homeless have serious addiction issues and need long-term treatment. Some of our homeless fall into all three of these groups.
We also need to offer realistic housing solutions to those homeless not captured by the streams above. But housing needs to come with rules, order, support, and requirements for those of working age to eventually find employment. We cannot expect people to improve if we do not demand and aid in improvement.
We also need to desperately address rental housing costs. The city should abolish the downtown revitalization tax exemption program and replace it with property tax exemption programs and the waiving of development cost charges for rent-to-income rental units at various income levels. And the provincial government needs to protect tenants from large rent increases not linked to legitimate renovations, while allowing landlords to make profits and control evictions. The federal government needs to remove tax breaks from real estate investment trusts that are distorting the rental economy.
We need to accept facts and attempt solutions that do not fit the political narratives of politicians on the left or right, or the financial interests and ideologies of their bases. That is the biggest challenge of all.
John Dacombe, Nanaimo
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