To the editor,
In 2018 our infamous tent city was disbanded and residents were placed in temporary trailer accommodation at sites on Labieux Road and Terminal Avenue. Those two facilities accommodate 170 individuals. Both neighbourhoods have suffered and continue to suffer effects of crime and social disorder.
In the coming months, 190 permanent supportive units will be built, or a net gain of 20 units if all the proposed building takes place. I am not going to argue against a net gain of 20 units but it does beg the question: What do we do with the hundreds of other homeless individuals on our streets?
When the facility on Terminal Avenue was put into our Newcastle neighbourhood, I predicted with unerring accuracy what would happen. Although I was dismissed as a reactive NIMBY, it has been far worse than even I expected. Now unfortunately I have to make my next prediction. The overconcentration of supportive housing services in the downtown corridor will lead to the creation of a ghetto that will extend from Terminal to Nicol Street. Drug dealers will set up shop to prey on those who live on the street and camp all over the city. Downtown businesses that were already struggling before COVID will finally give up and leave. Residents of the south end who have worked so hard to revitalize their community will look on in despair at crime and social disorder on the streets.
Our MLA Sheila Malcolmson says that she wants to see these units downtown where residents can access services. There is a community in Vancouver with lots of homeless people and services; it’s called the Downtown Eastside.
Newcastle, downtown and the south end are very generous communities but this proposed plan by the city and B.C. Housing clearly exceeds our carrying capacity to care for the homeless and integrate them effectively into our communities. What would it take for your neighbourhood to do its civic duty and step up to share the responsibility of caring for the most vulnerable in our city? A problem this large is not going away any time soon. We all need a healthy, vibrant downtown core.
Fred MacDonald, Nanaimo
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.