There are approximately 25,000 Syrian refugees expected to arrive in Canada between now and January.
They will need a great deal of help, and we expect that between the government, churches, and charitable citizens, that help will be available. By and large, Canadians are willing to lend a hand, especially in extraordinary circumstances. B.C. could see a relatively high proportion of the new refugees – Toronto and Vancouver and their suburbs are the most favoured destinations for newcomers to Canada.
The goal of rescuing people from overcrowded refugee camps and war zones is laudable. But when there is a crisis, it is easy to mobilize public opinion and the machinery of government to deal with major problems.
Other problems last for years, and become invisible.
If we can house 25,000 refugees in less than two months, why can’t we find proper housing for Canada’s homeless as well?
In Metro Vancouver, there are more than 2,700 people without any kind of housing. That likely misses more people who are sleeping on couches or in their cars.
Homelessness is a kind of permanent crisis. We see it every day, we walk around the people we see on the streets, tossing a few coins or avoiding eye contact. And every few years, the province or cities will make a new drive to try to end homelessness once and for all, but any improvements tend to be temporary.
Homelessness is not an easy problem to solve, and even with a lot of money thrown at it, it can’t be dealt with in a matter of months. But we don’t believe it’s insurmountable. The vast majority of people on the streets can be housed, and they can be helped to better lives.
This is not an argument to deal with homelessness before taking in refugees. Canada is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. We should be able to help refugees become new Canadians, and help our homeless citizens. Both need compassion and practical help.