Robert Barron column: Homeless issues not going anywhere soon

Robert Barron column: Homeless issues not going anywhere soon

He said many of the residents are afraid to leave their homes, especially at night

It was quite a sight when I arrived on Lewis Street Tuesday morning.

The street was blocked on both ends by RCMP and North Cowichan bylaw vehicles with their lights flashing as the authorities worked to help a large group of homeless people carry all their meagre belongings to the sidewalk in preparation to leave the area.

Dozens of shopping carts that were used by homeless people to move their possessions from place to place around the community were also collected to be returned to the businesses from which they were taken.

The police and bylaw officers brought in a large dumpster bin to collect garbage that filled quickly and then caught fire and filled the area with smoke as some sort of incendiary material got mixed in with the discarded clothes, cardboard boxes and other flammable materials that had been tossed in the bin.

It looked like a war zone.

The officers were responding to an ever-increasing amount of calls from the residents and neighbours of Lewis Street, located close to the Trans Canada Highway and Beverly Street, who wanted something done to deal with the growing number of transient people who seemed to have decided to make the street, and the empty lots around it, their temporary homes.

The newspaper has also received its fair share of calls from residents of Lewis Street complaining about their unwanted neighbours as the affordable housing crisis in the province deepened.

The authorities have stepped in at least three times in the past two years to clear the homeless people from the area, which is a congregating point for many due to its proximity to the overburdened Warmland shelter, but can do little to keep the people from returning.

While my heart goes out to those who find themselves living on the streets, often through no fault their own, my sympathy also goes out to the neighbours.

They did not ask to be in the centre of one of the main social emergencies of our time, and just want to live their lives in peace and comfort as the rest of us aspire to do.

One man who called me the day after the intervention by the authorities who has lived in the area for years said he has never seen the situation so bad.

He said many of the residents are afraid to leave their homes, especially at night, and are also concerned about their property values with tents, homeless people and garbage strewn all over the neighbourhood.

Who can blame them?

But then, many of those living on the streets (of course I don’t know about those on Lewis Street) are not criminals or drug users; some even have jobs but just simply can’t afford the high costs of rent these days.

A rented apartment that I moved into when I first moved to B.C. more than 20 years ago was just under $500 a month and is now renting for close to $2,000, which is quite a jump even considering the rising cost of living.

It’s widely recognized that more affordable housing is desperately needed, as well as more programs to deal with the ongoing opioid crisis, but the measures that have been taken so far are woefully inadequate.

Until we can find the solutions to these problems, I expect this week’s raid on Lewis Street will have to be repeated again and again.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A COVID-19 exposure has been reported at Drinkwater Elementary School dating to Feb. 25. (Google Street View image)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Drinkwater Elementary

Possible exposures occurred on Thursday, Feb. 25

A graphic design of the new RCMP detachment which will be located on a five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road. (File graphic)
Heavy trucks not allowed shortcut during construction of RCMP detachment

North Cowichan won’t allow heavy trucks on Drinkwater Road where not designated

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Laketown Ranch to welcome campers this summer

Sunfest site will provide camping amenities between May and September

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)
Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we… Continue reading

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Most Read