Our View: With homelessness, start with kindness

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has launched a case in Abbotsford that should be watched closely in every other community across the province.

Since 2013, there have been a number of confrontations between the City of Abbotsford and local homeless people, who have been “evicted” from local parks and other public spaces. The BCCLA will now argue in B.C. Supreme Court that banning someone with no private home from public lands is unconstitutional.

We agree that simply kicking the homeless out of parks and alleys, out of vacant houses and camps in the bush, is broadly unjust. Our society is very good at protecting private and civic property, and less good at providing a space for people with nowhere else to go. 

Obviously, having homeless camps in public parks or on private lands is less than ideal, for everyone. It is intrusive to other park users, it increases costs for the municipalities, it can cause fears, whether justified or not, about crime, and it ultimately tends to become a drain on police resources.

We often forget that it isn’t ideal for the homeless, either. There are a very, very small number of people sleeping on the streets and in the bush who actually want to be there. 

The solution to the problem of homelessness is to find people homes. We may balk at the cost, we may argue about the best way to do it, but if as a society we can’t find a clean, safe place for everyone to live, we are failing.

Experiments around the world are now taking place in simply housing the homeless. In many cases it proves cheaper to build new housing, or to provide them enough money to rent a decent space, than all the combined medical, policing, and legal costs of dealing with them as homeless.

We tend to think of homelessness as something that needs to be “dealt with,” but the best way to deal with homelessness is to get people into homes. 

– M.C.

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