While it’s important to fund programs that have immediate and visible effects in our community, it’s imperative that the root systemic causes of homelessness in Nanaimo are addressed, say letter writers. (News Bulletin file photo)

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Improved health and social services needed

It’s imperative that the root systemic causes of homelessness are addressed, say letter writers

To the editor,

Re: City investing in cleanup as 630 shopping carts collected, June 17.

We agree that ensuring all residents feel safe is a vital task, and we greatly appreciate the city’s hard work on improving Nanaimo.

While it’s important to fund programs that have immediate and visible effects in our community, it’s imperative that the root systemic causes of homelessness in Nanaimo are addressed. As Coun. Don Bonner stated, “it’s unfortunate that the city is spending money reactively instead of on proactively addressing social problems.”

We, at Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, whole-heartedly agree. We cannot ignore the homelessness crisis in our community, nor the social challenges contributing to homelessness. The number of people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo has increased 28 per cent since 2018, to at least 429. The causes to the growing homeless numbers are as diverse as the people experiencing homelessness and will require many solutions from all levels of government and community.

The experiences that render people homeless are complex and layered. They include structural factors, systems failures and individual circumstances. It’s important to ensure that the media addresses this and that the stories honour people’s lived experiences and do not perpetuate negative stereotypes.

As a community, we need to support long-term, no-barrier social services to help our most vulnerable population throughout our city. These include: affordable, subsidized and supported housing solutions; accessible therapy and counselling services addressing trauma; improved mental health services; affordable and accessible addiction services, and treatment; and life-skills development.

As our community comes together to navigate these unprecedented times, let’s use this as an opportunity to address root causes of social challenges in our city. Let’s be proactive, let’s work together and make long-term positive systematic change.

Yvonne Borrows and Jason Harrison, co-chairs, Nanaimo Homeless Coalition

READ ALSO: Count in Nanaimo indicates 25 per cent increase in homelessness

To the editor,

Re: City investing in cleanup as 630 shopping carts collected, June 17.

I think it’s important to note that this “cleanup” affects Nanaimo’s critical homeless issue. In some cases (two that I know of, for sure) cart “owners” had to leave their carts with all their possessions unattended to go have a shower, use a porta-potty, visit a walk-in clinic, etc. Sadly, upon their return, their carts had disappeared.

I am pleased the city is trying to clean up our streets but not at the risk of further victimizing our homeless. As Coun. Don Bonner points out, “money would be better spent proactively addressing social problems.” Let’s have thoughtful collaboration of municipal government and local groups addressing homelessness (even though it has been said this is a provincial issue).

There are now estimated to be 400 currently homeless in Nanaimo. Since COVID-19, the number could be considerably higher.

Of course this is a complex issue, but let’s make sure our city’s homeless receive assistance rather than further traumatization.

Lynn Burrows, Nanaimo

READ ALSO: Nanaimo taking inventory of health, housing, homelessness services

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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