To the editor,
Re: Count gives city updated snapshot of homelessness, Oct. 7.
As we head into a provincial election, it seems like an apt time to once again talk about the crisis in Nanaimo.
A few weeks ago, data from Nanaimo’s point-in-time homelessness count was presented to city council; it should come as no surprise that the number of people facing homelessness has once again increased. We now have a minimum of 433 people (although it’s likely closer to 600) who are living without a home in Nanaimo.
We’re often asked how it’s possible that the crisis is getting worse. How is homelessness continuing to increase when there are investments in affordable housing and dozens of non-profit and government organizations working to help people facing homelessness?
The answer to that question is simple; the root causes of homelessness are not being addressed. While housing first is important – every single human in this country deserves to sleep soundly with a roof over their head – we also need to address how people become homeless in the first place. It’s a deeply complex issue, and we are learning more about it every year.
The 2020 national homeless count asked a question about foster care for the very first time, and we learned that in Nanaimo 39 per cent of people who had been in foster care were homeless within five years of aging out.
We also learned that in Nanaimo, 24 per cent of people facing homelessness have an acquired brain injury. Research shows that there is a strong correlation between a traumatic brain injury and a person’s ability to hold a job.
There is also a strong connection between education levels and homelessness. In Nanaimo only 57 per cent of our homeless population has completed high school or higher.
We’ve offered three examples, but there are many, many paths into homelessness and with the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, it remains to be seen how many more people will lose the roof over their head.
The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition is continuing to work on the ground level, collaborating with the city’s health and housing task force to develop a new five-year strategy, and ensuring the implementation of a co-ordinated access system to help ease the strain on the current system.
But what we really need is for every member of the public to let our elected leaders know that more action is needed. We have an important election coming our way, so before Oct. 24, find out where the candidates stand on homelessness and ask questions about how they plan to address the root causes of homelessness. Without this, we can only expect to see the number of people facing homelessness continue to grow.
Yvonne Borrow, co-chairperson, Nanaimo Homeless Coalition
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