OPINION: Homeless need help, not insults

I’ve had it. No, really, I’m fed up. If I have to listen to another ill-informed, bigoted view of people who are homeless my head is going to explode.

These comments are everywhere lately as the provincial government does the right thing and invests hundreds of millions of dollars in supportive housing projects to deal with the rising number of homeless.

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In Burnaby, a new three-storey building will add 52 units at 3986 Norland St. for men, women, people with disabilities and seniors who are homeless. In New Westminster, there is a 44-unit modular housing project proposed for 838 Ewen Ave. for women.

In Penticton, the cowards on that town’s council caved in to a group of scared people who had ludicrous views about people who are homeless.

It hasn’t been much better in Richmond and South Vancouver, where terrified residents have been spreading fear and misinformation. But the granddaddy of all NIMBY groups is a select number of people who reside in Maple Ridge. This group has put the kibosh on several proposed sites for supportive housing during the past couple of years. A new modular housing proposal has sparked a new series of screaming – to the point where some of the opponents actually camped out to block the site until the city got an injunction to remove them.

When you hear all of these opponents to housing for the homeless, their criticism pretty much comes down to one basic point: “It’s not the right location.”

It’s just I find it hard to believe that all of the experts from B.C. Housing and the cities in question managed to get the location “wrong” in every single community.

“It’s too close to schools!” opponents will shout. Well, seeing as schools are strategically placed and spaced to cover all areas of communities, there’s always going to be a school nearby.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter where these housing projects are placed, someone will always say it’s the wrong location because they just don’t want it in their community.

They paint homeless people as destructive criminals who can’t be anywhere near their own homes. But these are human beings we are talking about, people who have been kicked around, or victimized by the outrageous local housing market. Some are seniors on fixed incomes who can’t afford anything else.

These projects are run by experienced housing societies that provide much-needed supports. Once in housing, residents are able to climb out of the cycle of poverty. If they need help for a mental illness or an addiction, they get that too.

All of society benefits.

So, sorry that people are labelling you as NIMBYs. But when you stop labelling all homeless people as dangerous lunatics, perhaps people will stop calling you NIMBYs.

Chris Campbell is editor of the Burnaby NOW and the New Westminster Record. Follow him @shinebox44.

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