Good letter from Bob Gendron (Sunday, April 29). His suggestion that the City seek out other communities our size that has had some success dealing with the homeless is a good one.
I believe it’s important that people understand where we are legally. A couple of years ago a sizable “tent city” sprung up near the legislature in Victoria. There was a great hue and cry to evict the residents and tear down the tents. The matter went to court and the court ruled that you can’t evict people unless you have a place to house them. Victoria got busy and created housing and down came the “tent city.” Five or six years ago the candidate for mayor in Medicine Hat ran on a platform of eliminating homelessness by building housing and increasing taxes by $80 per household per year. He was elected and they now house their homeless.
Since we are required by law to have a place to put the people we want to evict we need to talk about another commonly held belief that these people prefer the tent over the shelter bed. In many cases this is true but if you have the beds then you can enforce the law.
On a personal note, I am the legal guardian for my disabled brother. Over the past 35 years he was often homeless in Vancouver. He told me many times that he felt safer sleeping on a park bench than in a homeless shelter. It was only when he secured permanent accommodation through the Province of B.C. that his life began to improve.
We are our brothers and sisters’ keepers and once we provide a permanent residence, then and only then, can the process of rehabilitation begin.