‘Calllous sentiments’ toward homeless need to change

Dear editor,

I was going to phone Brian Charlton to let him know what an excellent letter he wrote about the Maple Pool controversy.

Dear editor,

I was going to phone Brian Charlton to let him know what an excellent letter he wrote to you about the Maple Pool controversy, but apparently he has an unlisted phone number and I couldn’t reach him.

He has managed to communicate perfectly my thoughts on the legal dispute between the City and Maple Pool, and the flawed logic around relying on businesses such as Maple Pool Campsite to solve the local homelessness problem.

Although I feel Courtenay’s lawsuit against the Lins should be dropped, $350 is a lot of money to pay for housing by someone on welfare, disability or even a minimum-wage job.

For that amount of rent, it’s reasonable for them to expect heat, safety, and shelter from the elements — albeit a modest bachelor suite — and not just somewhere to park an RV and plug in an electrical cord.

I also have a problem with a suggestion put out by Courtenay’s homeless committee that they use the grant and the money from the land given by the regional district to subsidize rents for homeless/low income people.

That would only perpetuate the conditions that led to the local homelessness problem in the first place. Because rental units are at a premium and landlords typically charge as much as the market will bear, so rents will continue to remain high.

Historically, Courtenay council won’t fund or give tax breaks to non-profit organizations or projects that compete with established businesses.

As former councillor Murray Presley once stated — when council voted not to back B.C. mobile home owners facing financial ruin over development-driven evictions — business owners have “the right to a return on their investments.”

For this reason, the Courtenay Air Park pays no property taxes, while day care centres do.

Perhaps that’s why no new subsidized housing has been built in Courtenay, or surrounding areas, for the past 20 years — unless you count the First Nations M’akola housing project — although other Vancouver Island municipalities have taken advantage of numerous provincial grants to do so.

Local homelessness task forces have also spent tens of thousands of dollars to look at the problem over the past several years, when that money could have been easily used to partially alleviate the suffering by creating several rental units.

During this time, at least two homeless people have died due to exposure to the elements. Then again, flooding the market with lower-priced, non-profit, rental units would cut into the expected profits of local landlords.

If this letter doesn’t shame Courtenay council, and other local governments, into taking immediate action on the rental housing crisis, I hope everybody remembers to get out and vote during the next municipal election.

During the past 20 years, only one-quarter of eligible people cast their votes. If this continues,  the same callous sentiments will continue to dominate the decision-making process at Courtenay council.

Charlotte Ostrowski,

Courtenay

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