That Saanich council didn’t anticipate costs relating to homelessness reveals that council has not listened to residents, advocates, researchers, and others who have come before them multiple times to express concern about the affordable housing crisis and growing numbers in precarious housing who are at risk for homelessness – over 21,000 households in the CRD according to the 2016 census.
Tent cities are not new phenomena. When people are sheltering outside, being together provides stability, safety, and mutual aid. Tent cities will continue to happen if people don’t have appropriate housing.
Most of the expense incurred by Saanich is due to their decision to police tent cities and chase people from park to park, instead of working with those sheltering outside in a collaborative way that treats unhoused people like the human beings they are.
With municipal elections happening soon, we need candidates who will stop misusing public funds on surveilling and displacing homeless people, inadequate temporary measures like rubber mats on a floor, or institutionalized ‘supportive’ warehousing that is more about controlling poor people than meeting people’s housing needs. These are not solutions, they are all based on the dehumanization of people living in poverty.
Constructive action is within our grasp, but only if we start taking the affordable housing crisis seriously, stop spending money on punishing people for being unhoused, and commit to founding all action on principles of respect and care.