T/C editorial on Ellice Street and homelessness

June 21, 2008 at 10:44 pm 1 comment

Today’s Times-Colonist has a worthwhile editorial on the Ellice Street homeless shelter controversy. Victoria City Council voted Thursday morning to send the Cool-Aid Society’s rezoning application for a new location for the Streetlink shelter to Public Hearing. The editorial has a lot to say about the problems in locating a shelter site, and the need for all neighbourhoods to step up to the plate in helping solve homelessness. As I often say to people who talk about “Downtown’s homeless problem”: do you think they were all born Downtown? Anyway, here’s a couple of good quotes:

A solution to a problem that affects a fellow human being, I believe, must be more than practical. It can’t be dealt with solely by bylaws and zoning.

It certainly can’t be dictated by community or “neighbourhood” concerns, especially when they’re based on assumptions and predictions that are probably less reasonable than they seem.

Some of those who would be neighbours of Cool Aid’s customers are upset at what this development would do to their neighbourhood. This is entirely understandable.

I don’t think these are grasping people concerned about lowered property values. I think they’re members of a neighbourhood where amenities like parks are in short supply, where the safety of children can’t be assumed as easily as it can in other parts of town or in other municipalities.


If we can accept low-income neighbours, can’t we accept those with none to speak of? If we can accept those with little, can’t we accept those with nothing?

And why is it that all the neighbourhoods between Sidney and Sooke aren’t lining up to offer accommodation to the homeless?

Have they no shame?

Entry filed under: social issues.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  June 21, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    I found this bit of Iain Hunter’s commentary quite interesting:

    It might annoy shopkeepers and surprise tourists when those who use downtown shelters move out onto the street in daylight. But how hurtful it must be for shelter-users to be greeted each morning by the tight smiles or curled lips of those hurrying off to fuller days. [emphasis added]

    Something about that juxtaposition of empty vs. fuller days made me realize that we’re too easily lumping into the same category of “homelessness” people with mental illness and/ or addictions (who can’t help themselves very easily, if at all), as well as people who really should be able to move on and move up, back into those “fuller days,” provided they get some help with housing and job training. That is, we’re not doing enough to make sure that people get the skills and the opportunities and the push to get back into fullness. We’ve accepted that they’ll stay stuck in empty.

    It’s a bit like that hockey stick (the long-tail) problem again: there is the “Million Dollar Murray/ hard to house” population, where we really need to intervene; and there’s the segment of people on the knife-edge, who need intervention/ help/ training so they can participate fully (and productively) in society again.

    In between there’s another (bigger?) population, of people with some deeper, more intractable problems (albeit not as deep as the Million Dollar Murray kind). We’re focusing a lot on that middle, but it’s not giving us the best returns in terms of making a difference.

    By focusing on that middle, we’re also stuck at the hand-wringing stage, focused on “the problem,” and then fretting over meta-problems: the nature of society, capitalism, morals, ethics, and that whole huge ball of wax — which of course we have about as good a hope of “solving” as the social problems of the intractable middle.

    We need to get people who are sick off the streets, period. And we need to make sure that people who became homeless but who could be making a better life are able to do so. I.e., people need opportunities, and they need to be challenged to meet them. Addressing the very bottom and the very top of “social problems” might yield some real returns, and give new energy to tackling the big middle.


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