City of Nanaimo bylaws and community safety officers interact with people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file photo)

City of Nanaimo bylaws and community safety officers interact with people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file photo)

OPINION: When asking for safety, ask for safety for all of us

Island Crisis Care Society executive director hearing calls for public safety this election campaign

BY VIOLET HAYES

I recently had the opportunity to chat with several of the candidates for city council, at a meet and greet at Beban Park. While many issues were discussed, one of the most prevalent that I heard was a call for public safety in our community.

Indeed, as citizens of Nanaimo, we need community safety – safety for all. But what does that mean? Nanaimo is made up of many people – business people, young families aspiring to prosperity, retirees who want to enjoy the loveliness of our city, and people who are much more vulnerable, perhaps living precariously or sleeping rough on our streets, and often beset with other challenges, due in part to the fragility and precariousness of their situation. All of these people are citizens of Nanaimo, and in this important moment, we need to seek solutions that will be of benefit to the well-being and welfare of all of them.

We need safety for people walking in the streets – but also safety for those who may end up through circumstance or tragedy living on the streets.

We need safety for people in their homes – but also safety for those who have no homes, who need support to find shelter, and are in constant danger of the elements, and of the terrible stigma and even violence that they may face.

So what can be done?

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities makes a strong statement on housing for all, stating that “housing is the bedrock of liveable and prosperous communities.” It goes on to say that “ensuring everyone has a place to live must be our collective priority. This includes action to address all forms of homelessness.”

How can this happen?

We need to create safe spaces for people who are in need, without judgment, so that every person in our community can be assured of a safe place to lay their heads.

We need to find more avenues to affordable housing, so that more people do not slip into the terrible cycle of homelessness, and more programs to provide nuanced support for people who are vulnerable, to help them move towards independence and positive contribution to the community.

We need to find positive, proactive solutions to create opportunities for people to find hope and resiliency, with less stigma and judgment. People who end up in difficult circumstances already feel a great deal of shame. This becomes even worse when they face rejection from others in the community.

It takes all of us to make positive change in our community. Government and social sector actors do much, but it will take concerted effort across all sectors – from businesses through to media and faith groups, to private individuals, to city council and local authorities – to make sustainable headway. All of us must come together to create positive and lasting solutions for all of our community.

It is not easy, but working together, we can find a way. More than anything, we need to recognize that our community is more than just one segment of population, but is made up of many different people in many different circumstances. All of us belong here, and in some way, we need to make space – safe space – for all.

For more information on some programs in our community striving to make a difference, go to http://islandcrisiscaresociety.ca.

Violet Hayes is executive director of Island Crisis Care Society. She can be reached at development@iccare.ca.

ELECTION 2022: Candidates in Nanaimo, Lantzville, RDN and SD68

municipal politics

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