Emmanuel Alviar, front, was among homeless people and advocates who set up camp on the front lawn of Nanaimo city hall Monday to protest lack of housing and facilities for the city’s homeless population. (CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin)

Editorial: Homelessness being protested, rightfully

The frustration some feel on the issue is understandable

The province says there will be a second round of funding for modular supportive housing, so Nanaimo can re-apply.

For some, it can’t come soon enough. For others, it didn’t come soon enough – a handful of people were out on city hall land on Monday morning setting up a tent city homeless camp and asking the municipality to take action on housing solutions.

The frustration some feel on the issue is understandable. People are experiencing homelessness in our city and it isn’t always because of, or overlapping with, drug addiction. Some homeless people have sought out that way of life, for others, wrong choices, bad luck, mental illness or a combination of factors have led them where they are.

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Supportive housing was supposed to be one solution in our community. A new NDP provincial government identified certain cities where a rapid response to homelessness was needed and depended upon those cities and partners to try to push the projects through quickly. Nanaimo just plain wasn’t ready, as it had just one piece of land identified, too close for comfort to a daycare and a school.

Even before the province took back Nanaimo’s $7.25 million in funding for supportive housing and reallocated it elsewhere – seemingly Parksville – there was a sense of hopelessness. Not only was the Chase River project dead, but there were no other potential sites being discussed.

What’s more, while we’re still six months or so from a municipal election campaign, it’s hard to imagine that supportive housing will move the needle as an election issue. After what Nanaimo has been through with its city council, how can the next election be contested over anything but governance?

Sometimes change comes from leadership, sometimes it comes from those who want something so badly that they demand it and won’t settle. In Nanaimo, we have homeless people who want to be housed. A tent city must not be seen as a nuisance, but as a protest.

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