–Katie Bee (This was first published on Facebook and is republished here with permission)
There is so much anger in the air right now surrounding Camp Namegans move to Goldstream Park, and I don’t dismiss anyone’s right to their opinion, but that means I have just as big of a right to my own opinion as well. I am not interested in reading more angry responses, there are enough floating around online, but I do think it is important for all views to be considered, so I am sharing mine.
I believe many of the fears that people have about this move are misguided.
The majority of tent city people actually stayed in Victoria, and I kind of doubt anyone with a heavy drug problem or criminal mentality migrated with the camp, as they would prefer to stay in the city … it went from 100 campers down to between 20 and 40 at Goldstream.
I have been trying to stay updated on the camps page, and it looks as though this smaller group consists of many people who truly need our help and compassion, (not that every homeless PERSON doesn’t deserve this) including an elderly couple who was renovicted six months ago and simply can’t find an apartment that they can afford, quite a few disabled elderly people, etc.
Not every homeless person can be painted with the same brush.
Yes, some homeless people may be criminals, etc. But hey, criminals and drug addicts exist in all levels of society … do we paint all white males as rapists or mass murderers because of the actions of a handful of white males? NO, we don’t, because that would be very very wrong. So we also need to stop painting all homeless people as criminals, lazy, addicts etc.
The truth is, our province is suffering from a major housing crisis, as well as a mental health crisis and addiction crisis. A lot of our homeless population are victims of one or all of these crisis’… and a lot of addicts are suffering from a lack of support for mental health issues or trauma, and have turned to self medicating to numb their feelings. If you want to get mad at anyone, your anger should be directed towards our government for ignoring these issues for far too long.
We shouldn’t be mad at these campers who are simply trying to find a sliver or normalcy and support in their lives by banding together in these camps. They are far more vulnerable when they are dispersed to the streets. In these camps they have access to support systems, health checks, OD intervention, regular meals and a sense of community. Not to mention the pressure it puts on officials to actually act and do something about the housing crisis (Saanich has just committed to set aside land to address the crisis for example, coincidence?)
I understand it makes people angry to see these camps and the garbage that is created, but I don’t believe pushing them from one spot to another is the answer. Until a proper solution to our housing and mental health crisis’ can be agreed upon by our government officials, why not provide them with a few simple services to help keep the camps clean and reduce the cost of clean ups, police raids etc.? As these are an unnecessary burden to every tax payer … if they had outhouses and dumpsters provided for example, it could eliminate the toxic waste issue and would be far cheaper in the long run. Not to mention how much it costs the RCMP to perform each and every raid … it just seems like all that money could be put to a better, more proactive approach.
The reality of today is that MANY of us are only an illness, or a few lost pay cheques away from homelessness. Not everyone has family support available if they got sick and couldn’t continue to work, or got evicted and couldn’t afford the skyrocketing rates of rent in our communities.
Even here in Sooke, a community that has always been considered affordable, I see a few posts a month from entire families that are facing homelessness, and not for a lack of work. Families of vie that are living in a tiny camper, with no where else to call home.
I know of quite a few people around my age who get up everyday and work long hours and STILL can’t find a home to rent, forced to live out if a tent or bounce from one couch to the next. Seniors who are living with pensions that are so small they are just barely scraping by and would also find themselves without a home if they were displaced from their long term, affordable rentals.
I for one am not blind to how fast my comfortable life could flip if god forbid something happened to my husband that prevented him from working in his field, or working at all. We may own a home, but that doesn’t make us any less vulnerable to loosing it.
Following is a video from Stephen Portman, who posted Live from Goldstream on September 20. This eight-minute clip includes interviews with the homeless.