It must have been a huge relief for the residents of Duncan’s Lewis Street neighbourhood to have the authorities come in on Monday and Tuesday and clear out the homeless people and their accumulated belongings and trash.
We had numerous complaints from people about how bad the problem had gotten, and photos of the area by reporter Robert Barron show the piles of stuff and dozens of shopping carts that had previously littered this short city street, encroaching on people’s properties.
Nobody would want to live in those conditions.
Which brings us to the inevitable question: the homeless were being moved out of Lewis Street, but where would they go? Nobody seemed to have the answer to that question. The bald truth is that there is nowhere for them to go at present.
The Duncan area desperately needs a low-barrier housing complex that these people could call home. They need bachelor suites where they can leave their belongings, make a little bit of food, and keep themselves clean. It needs to be supported by professionals who can ensure that it doesn’t become a dump, and that the people there are safe and have access to services if they choose.
The Warmland Shelter and the new women’s emergency shelter are doing great work, but it’s clearly not enough.
Some question why we, collectively, should foot the bill to give them housing if they’re not willing to take steps to solve their problems and fix their lives. We argue that it’s a lot better than inflicting squalor and mayhem on people’s neighbourhoods by leaving them homeless.
It’s also the right thing to do — they are human beings, in bad circumstances, yes, but human beings all the same. They have a better chance of turning things around with a roof over their heads. Housing first policies have been proven to work.
Locating such a facility will be extremely challenging. But we can’t afford not to do it. We know that the status quo is a bad option.
Just ask the residents of Lewis Street.