I would like to open the conversation up on homelessness in our area. We have people who are needing help and understanding. In fact, many of them are people who have grown up here who have just hit a rough patch. Some have never had a run-in with the law and others who are simply poor, which is not a crime. Yes, some have addictions and if they are given housing and useful supports, this too could be addressed and, again, addiction in of its self is not criminal. I know some of these people and consider them friends. Many people are only few paycheques away from being in a heap of trouble and we should all know that addictions and mental health do not discriminate.
We live in a province of significant wealth; homelessness shouldn’t be an issue.
Trying to deal with mental health while living on the street is next to impossible, and who can deal with addictions when sleeping outside? Jobs are virtually impossible when homeless. We also have those who are hard to house - and that in its self is a conversation worth having.
The province is clearly not going to confront this issue in every community and Castlegar City Council has said its not their mandate to deal with it, so that leaves us, you know, ‘we the people’.
Yes, we can make a difference.
We need to have a serious discussion about what kind of community we want. Homelessness and poverty are not going away and Castlegar has only ever seen it on a very small scale. We at Community Harvest Food Bank, Drop-In Centre and Emergency Shelter have been dealing with these issues for years. We house people temporarily while trying to help secure housing for them, we have paid rents, rented motel units and our shelter is never vacant. We connect folks with Mental Heath and other services, we do everything that we can do to ease the pain, loneliness and fear that many have. We understand that connections to community are vital for their well being.
We need to emphasize the importance of advocating for low cost, affordable housing to our elected officials. We need to make sure that people are safe, housed and given the opportunity to be their best selves. We need to make sure our seniors and our young parents have access to housing, a place for their families to grow and for those single people out there who, by all accounts, get left with little to no options. We are all deserving of a community that is inclusive, affordable and safe. We should accept nothing less.
If you are interested in having a conversation on homelessness and housing and other social issues, please feel free to contact me and if there is enough interest, we can have a larger meeting.