Editorial: Concerns of Duncan neighbourhoods inundated with homeless legitimate

Nobody would want this in their neighbourhood.

There is a problem with homelessness in Duncan.

There is a problem with drug addiction in Duncan.

Sometimes these two problems overlap, though not always. And sometimes they are exacerbated by mental health issues. Sometimes the mental health issues have been created by the drug use. Sometimes they are one of the reasons for the drug use, and/or the homelessness.

We think that most people in the Cowichan Valley, including in the Duncan area, have compassion for people suffering through one, two, or all of these things. But we also can’t deny the very real problems being suffered by residents and business owners in neighbourhoods that these folks move through, or gather in.

In Wednesday’s edition we had a story about the plight of Lewis Street residents, who are dealing with heaps of trash, drug paraphernalia, and sometimes rowdy homeless folks, who, for whatever reason, aren’t using Warmland House but are instead hunkering down outside the back fence.

Nobody would want this in their neighbourhood. It’s a situation where it’s totally understandable to be NIMBY. It’s not only unsightly, but can also be frightening for residents who may be confronted by the unpredictable behaviour of the transients. The drug paraphernalia poses a health hazard, as do the piles of refuse that attract vermin. There’s also crime that goes along with the drug problem, from petty theft to vandalism and more.

It’s not fair to say to the residents who are sick and tired of dealing with these problems in their neighbourhoods that they lack empathy for the less fortunate because they want it to stop. Their concerns are legitimate and need to be taken seriously.

Of course the best solution is to solve the homelessness and drug problems, but there is no magic wand. A housing first strategy certainly seems to be one of the more promising ideas, as this would get people, no matter their condition, off the street and into supported housing situations, with the view to moving people into treatment programs and employment, whatever is needed.

One way or another, the status quo is not acceptable.

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