More homeless help needed

Re: Grant supports fight against homelessness across region, April 3.

To the Editor,

Re: Grant supports fight against homelessness across region, April 3.

I know Nanaimo residents would like to find a solution for those in our community who find themselves without a home. This was clear in the results of our recent local elections.

And so, with great interest I read this article.

The one-time grant of $340,000 targeted toward emergency needs during the cold, wet weather will certainly help. And I give city councillors credit for their efforts to establish permanent subsidized housing throughout our city.

I wonder, however, if this is enough.

The other day as I was out for a walk I noticed big signs on the corner of Bowen and Labieux roads offering the area for redevelopment.

No doubt this is a good location for some commercial enterprise and the two small existing houses look like they are beyond being rescued. They are likely no longer profitable for whoever owns them.

But I wonder what will happen to the people who live there. Will they be able to find affordable housing anywhere else? Or will they become homeless?

I can remember a time when our governments set aside areas within new residential developments for subsidized housing.

My husband and I had friends who lived for a time in one of these. They had two young sons and really struggled to make ends meet. But, with a secure home, they were able to look after their family and get some training.

In the beginning they paid little rent, but as their incomes increased their rent went up accordingly. Today they are both successful professionals and their children are happily married.

I am sure the outcome would have been quite different without this initial support.

So, to answer my question, I do not think that one-time grants and a few special initiatives are enough. I believe our governments need to take action.

It is time for them to set criteria for new housing developments that would require a small percentage to be set aside and developed for subsidized housing.

Of course this would have to be monitored and builders (who could be making bigger, and more expensive buildings) would need some kind of compensation. And rent would need to be subsidized in an ongoing fashion.

Yes, this is going to cost us all. But I believe most of us would willingly pay more taxes (or have some tax money reassigned from other less critical areas) to know that all Canadians have access to safe shelter.

And in the end, I know a plan like this would save us a lot – in health care, emergency visits, stop-gap measures, and most of all, in human suffering and dignity.

Bonnie Thiessen


Nanaimo News Bulletin