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LETTER: Food bank/homeless shelter manager speaks to housing crisis

I’m writing this in response to a widely-publicized column by MP Richard Cannings earlier this week about issues in his riding.

He says, “This week one issue dominated the conversation—housing, housing, housing.”

But there’s no mention of it in reference to Castlegar.

“I met with the new mayor of Castlegar as well, and his priority is the same as the previous mayor—improving the air service into the Castlegar airport.”

There was no mention of housing at all, despite the fact that housing is a constant and growing concern in our community.

Lack of affordable housing as well as subsidized housing remains a huge issue. Our number one concern with our food bank clients is them having to live in substandard conditions and/or spend more than 50 per cent of their income on a rental. Homelessness is on the rise in Castlegar, small tent communities are springing up. We have one small shelter operated by the food bank, and we cannot accommodate all those in need. This causes anger, anxiety and makes people feel a lack of community connection or that they are not valued by society. This also makes the general public feel contempt for those seeking help.

I believe that with partnerships between municipalities and provincial government, housing needs can be met. Municipalities have a number of ways to help without it being a tax burden. I also believe that we need strong social policies to be in place so that we can help people move forward. We cannot treat poverty, mental health or addiction as a crime. It will take the City, agencies and social justice advocates to work together to provide a safety net for people. Our senior community also struggles with housing and we need our City to be strong advocates for all.

It is my sincere hope that the report commissioned by the City and CBT will convince our city and province that they can lead the charge in Castlegar to be more proactive, show more leadership and be champions for all residents. Advocacy is an extremely important role for the city to play.

We are very grateful for those that donate each year to the Food Bank, Drop In and shelter. We thank you for making sure that those community members are being helped to the best of our abilities. We ask that you continue to support us and that you ask that your City advocate to meet the needs of all its residents.

Deb McIntosh

Castlegar, B.C.