What did tour of out-of-town homeless shelters accomplish?

Dear editor,
On July 7, 30 elected officials, downtown merchants, Chamber of Commerce members, charity and non-profit members visited two homeless and transitional housing projects in Nanaimo and Duncan.

Dear editor,

On July 7, 30 elected officials, downtown merchants, Chamber of Commerce members, charity and non-profit members visited two homeless and transitional housing projects in Nanaimo and Duncan.

Did they actually learn something from this trip more than that it was a good photo op? I wonder how knowledgeable, informed and experienced are those that are spending the taxpayers’ dollars and leading out in the building of a shelter?

Since there is a thrust to have a shelter, let’s have one set up so that it makes a difference. Make sure that what we get will be better than what we have now.

It appears it was another example of how our local representatives do things backwards. This fact-finding journey of discovery should have come before the land was purchased for a proposed homeless shelter. Get all of your ducks in a row first.

Our provincial government has produced several in-depth studies on the causes and effects of homelessness in B.C. with titles such as: The Relationship between Homelessness and the Health, Social Services and Criminal Justice Systems; The Costs of Homelessness; A Profile, Policy Review and Analysis of Homelessness.

These and other studies and experiences from providers of shelters show that about 70 per cent of homelessness is due to drug addiction and mental illness. Drug addicts tend to support their habits with property crime.

Perhaps City Hall employees won’t mind their cars being broken into. If you want to reduce homelessness then prove that you have found effective methods to deal with drug addiction and mental illness.

Other factors include availability and affordability of housing, the local unemployment rate, the ability of individuals to either have gainful employment or other means of income or financial means and the individual’s attitudes as to being a responsible tenant. Homeless shelters don’t necessarily have to be built close to support services that many of the residents may need.

Successful examples show that required professional services can be provided in house or on premises. Also, there are means of transportation such as the bus, using a bicycle, walking, sharing a ride or volunteers driving them.

The reasons to support the purchase of property near City Hall on Cliffe Avenue are not necessarily good or strong ones. Given the flawed process that has taken place so far and the $400,000+ price tag for what seems to be a small piece of property in a location that is opposed by many, I suggest that we should start over from scratch and do it right this time.

Those in charge and involved, do your homework first, get trained and informed so that you know what you are doing.

Ed Zirkwitz,

Courtenay

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