To the Editor,
For the past three winters my husband and I were involved as volunteers at the Unitarian Extreme Weather Shelter, which provides overnight shelter for people who are homeless in Nanaimo.
Let me “put a face” to some of the people we met at the shelter: there was the man who came to the shelter by bike with flowers in a glass jar for the dining table; there were a group of four or so, who tried to figure out whose money ($50) was found in the washing machine and then they returned it to the rightful owner; there was the man who chose to wait for his wife to arrive before eating his own dinner; there was Cheryl (who was later murdered) who offered assistance to her friends, always with a sense of humour; there was the man I chatted with as he ate a bowl of hot soup, discussing where we lived before moving to Nanaimo and how we liked it here (he lived under a bridge – I, in a nice home); and then there were the various people who were so sick they had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance, only to return to the street once they were stabilized.
The people I have described are you and me, but with the added burden of an addiction, a mental/physical health issue, a financial setback, possibly poor judgment or simply bad luck.
But, how can any one of these disadvantaged people improve their lives without the convenience and safety of a roof over their heads?
Think about this as you sit at your kitchen table with a telephone, making the contacts and appointments necessary to organize the needs of your own family.
It costs us more to pay for crisis health care and support for homeless people than it would to provide housing for them.
We cannot afford to not provide low-barrier, supportive housing.
Only from a position of safety and security can these people make a start on positive change. It not only makes financial sense, our humanity depends upon it.
Thank you to this city council for their good judgment in leading the way.