To end homelessness, stop hating the homeless

In upcoming elections, voters in Greater Victoria should be mindful of candidates' stances on housing and homelessness

Mark Muldoon

Guest comment

On a particular night in February, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, with the help of other agencies, conducted a facility count. They found 1,143 people being sheltered throughout the city. More than 10 per cent of this number was comprised of youths.

The numbers did not include those who were sleeping outdoors, couch surfing or living in an inadequate accommodation.

While the results remind us that homelessness and near-homelessness are still key issues in our community, they should also remind us that it is a mistake to identify the homeless problem of Victoria only with those we see wandering the streets or sleeping in doorways.

The visible street population is only the tip of the iceberg of hundreds of youths, single adults and families who are insecurely, inappropriately, or hardly housed at all.

The lack of affordable rental units, the obscene cost of hydro and the lack of a living wage lock hundreds of youths and adults into an unstable and transitory living situation.

Understandably, many voters resent the sight of homeless people and demand that someone – anyone – clean up the streets. Consequently, the city has been trying to respond to this resentment by slowly policing the visible homeless out of sight.

In the meantime, many people who work with the homeless and near-homeless agree that housing this growing population, and preventing it from happening, is achievable with the right policies. What is lacking is the public will to demand that governments act in a way that looks for long-term solutions to the problem.

Unfortunately, while we decry the sight of the homeless, few if any voters are outraged enough to make it a political issue.

Why?

Human nature being what it is, we hate being in the presence of those who, through no fault of their own, are jobless, near-homeless and generally down on their luck.

The presence of marginalized youth, men and women standing in front of a welfare office evokes deep fears in each of us about our own vulnerability and weakness.

All these fears and feelings of vulnerability get projected onto those who – all too often with legitimate reasons – need help to avoid being homeless.

Instead of accepting our own vulnerability and responding with integrity, we prefer to believe the homeless and near-homeless choose to be a blight on our city. We say they are lazy, drunk,

stupid, ignorant folks who won’t hold down a job.

The coalition has been working tirelessly to identify and formulate recommendations that will turn off the tap to the circumstances that feed homelessness. Its vision is to prevent homelessness from re-occurring through long-term policies that treat people in a dignified and principled way.

However, without the public will to demand that governments invest in long-term solutions, such recommendations will not be taken seriously.

In the end, we have to stop blaming the homeless and near-homeless for their plight and begin to act like mature citizens who care.

Currently, the province and the Capital Regional District have among the highest poverty rates in the country. Behind the contingent of visible homeless on the street, there is a larger number of youths, individuals and families on the cusp of becoming homeless. Both populations must be addressed.

In the coming civic elections, voters must raise a loud and audible cry, demanding that local politicians invest in long-term policies, and financial commitments and forge structures that eventually work to

prevent people from joining the ranks

of the homeless and near-homeless.

Mark Muldoon is executive director of the Threshold Housing Society.

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

Just Posted

Langford man arrested after fleeing a serious crash in Saanich

Other driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries, police say

Colwood family desperately searching for lost dog

Hachi was last seen on Monday near Lookout Lake Park

Cannabis responsible for higher incomes among Canadian farmers

Without cannabis sales, national crop revenues would have dropped in 2019

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

B.C. tourism seeks relief as businesses wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease

Mid-June earliest for more in-province travel to be authorized

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

Linda Peters envisions trained searchers ready to go at moment’s notice in each B.C. First Nation

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Most Read