More action needed on homelessness

I was shocked to see our only stop-gap solution is ugly, fenced, tent-style holding pens

More action needed on homelessness

Dear Cowichan mayors, councillors, directors and volunteers:

I applaud any and every action our brave and committed politicians, volunteers and social organizations are taking to address Cowichan’s chronic homelessness crisis.

Answers are not easy concerning these complex issues that are indeed of national interest too.

However, Cowichan’s busy leaders have had decades to debate and try solutions — working with health-care professionals and counsellors, our regional housing strategy folks, concerned citizens, and homeless people themselves.

Shamefully, we still lack the level of housing and help for these people who number some 2,000 and climbing.

I was shocked to see our only stop-gap solution is ugly, fenced, tent-style holding pens dotting various sites around core Cowichan.

Is this the sum of all our meetings, funding, professional advice, studies, debates, films and community input?

Underwhelming, to say the very least.

Other cities and countries are creatively confronting similar homelessness issues involving the working poor, addicts, the mentally challenged and jobless people, albeit given cultural differences.

Surely our intelligent community should have done better by now to address our ongoing homelessness problem affecting various businesses, neighbourhoods, our medical system and more.

Community volunteers are selflessly clearing the mess, potentially medically dangerous, left by some careless homeless folks.

Despite lots of talk and studies during the past two decades, we still have precious few truly affordable housing units for Cowichan’s homeless folks.

I full commend Warmland House and other facilities — including our great hospitals — as authentic models of operation doing their best to help these desperate people.

But leadership by our elected and paid governments has been lacklustre, to say the least.

We have, and have had, the expertise, funding and land to take action in constructing appropriate housing, complete with addiction help, counselling, detox resources and more.

We have simply lacked the political will to act.

That’s starkly evidenced by our growing numbers of homeless folks still living in local parks, woods, shacks and elsewhere.

I suggest Cowichan’s leaders finally act as a catalyst with our volunteers and organizations to set solid, realistic deadlines for building and/or buying or renting more facilities to address our collective homelessness problem.

If not, I daresay our fledgling tent cities could be far larger, permanent sites by 2030.

Still, I believe Cowichan can serve as a vibrant showpiece of compassionate assistance toward these homelessness issues sadly facing many Canadian communities.

Peter W. Rusland

North Cowichan

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