In the past week we’ve seen two municipalities, the provincial government, and five police forces chase unhoused people from park to park refusing to let people rest and shelter. Last Thursday, after the Langford mayor made highly inflammatory statements, vigilantes threatened to violently remove people sheltering at Goldstream campsites.
This emergency is the result of longstanding problems.
One is the affordable housing shortage. At last count over 1,500 people in the CRD were homeless and people in over 21,000 households are living in overcrowded, unsafe, or financially unsustainable homes.
The other is the encouragement of fear and hatred instead of treating each other with respect, dignity, and care. The dehumanization, stereotyping, and scapegoating of a group of people is not new; as a Jew this is highly familiar to me. But right now we are at a dangerous moral, ethical, and political flashpoint.
Government hurts even while it helps. Saanich announced 40-60 temporary modular housing units may open next spring or summer; in the meantime 25 mats on a floor will be provided as of Oct. 1. Neither decision involved working collaboratively with unhoused people and neither comes close to addressing the scale of the problem. In the meantime governments criminalize homelessness and deny unhoused people the ability to protect themselves and their belongings.
In the absence of affordable and safe housing, tent cities help unhoused people survive, rest, and build community. They should be supported, not vilified. We need homes, not hate.