Building support, building community, and building collective will
Few issues can cause such division in a community as the siting of a housing project for homeless people.
As people rally in response to the perceived threat against their homes, businesses, and very way of life, fears regarding an inevitable spike in crime and public disorder and plummeting property values are often cited as reasons to stop the project or push it into another neighbourhood.
When we are confronted by the obvious signs of substance abuse and homelessness on city streets, it is easy to understand why people are concerned. It is also easy and very typical for some people to blame those trying to intervene, to question the proposed approach, and/or paint their efforts as generally misguided.
Although interventions of any kind are rarely perfect, it is not ACTION but INACTION that is the greatest threat to public health and safety, and to our valued way of life. Providing homeless people much needed support and a place to be is always the right answer and it is always better than the alternative. The RCMP know this very well. According to Sgt Trevor Busch of the Duncan RCMP, “place(s) like this in many regards are going to reduce crime…and reduce calls for service because you’re now providing a vulnerable population with somewhere to go.”
The health and social issues often underlying homelessness are complex, and they interact — brain injury, trauma, mental health and/or substance abuse problems, sexual abuse and/or exploitation, to name just a few. When we talk about the presence of these complex issues, we don’t do so as an excuse. We do so because these are areas where we can intervene and make a positive difference, but not without housing of the type proposed for 610 Trunk Rd.
Good citizens will never get ahead of problems plaguing their community by doing nothing or by holding out for expensive public services, that while greatly needed, may never come. We cannot address homelessness without putting up housing in someone’s neighbourhood, and with rare exception, no one wants these projects in their neighbourhood. Although homelessness and related challenges are bigger than any one project, each project is an important step in the right direction.
Do not let the issues before us divide us as a community. It is by building support, building community, and building collective will that things will ultimately change for the better.