What comes next?
Over the last few weeks temporary tent sites have been put up in various places throughout Duncan and Chemainus to provide the homeless shelter during the COVID-19 crisis. They are for no more than 12 people at a time, and security, bathrooms, showers, food and laundry are available to those living in the tents that have been set up.
Other members of the homeless community have been given hotel rooms, in a pattern that is being repeated elsewhere on the Island.
Though it was certainly late in coming (getting permissions and accessing funds never seems to be as quick a process as seeing the need and coming up with an idea) the move will insulate some of our most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19. In the normal course of things, the homeless have almost no way to self-isolate during a pandemic, and many of their lifelines, like food bank services, closed, at least temporarily (though fortunately most have found a way to deliver at least some of their services).
Consider though, it’s literally taken a pandemic to make it enough of a health priority to finally get everyone off the street. To get the political will and the funding, it took an unprecedented global disaster.
And this particular housing initiative is due to wrap up at the end of June. That’s less than a month from now.
So what happens next? We hope there is a plan in the works to make this housing-for-all push more permanent.
Housing alone doesn’t solve all the problems that many of the homeless people have. For many, it’s more than just lacking funds that keeps them on the street. Mental health problems and drug problems, sometimes in tandem, also contribute to their plight.
So throwing up four walls, or setting aside some tent space, isn’t a solution in and of itself. It is but a good first step.
Those who are worried about day to day survival don’t often have the will and the energy to address their larger issues. And so it becomes a self-perpetuating problem.
But if people don’t have to worry about where they’re going to sleep, if someone is going to steal all their stuff while they get some shuteye, where they’re going to get some food, and yes, where they’re going to get their next fix, it creates a place in their lives for healing and for real change.
Just leaving them to fend for themselves certainly hasn’t done anyone any favours — the homeless and the communities they live in.
Time to try something new.
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