It’s a problem that should have been solved long ago.
If you live in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area and happen to poke your head outside, you’ll find it’s cold. And wet.
For those with a roof over their head and a warm place to stay, it’s a mild annoyance at best.
For those without a roof and left to live outside, it’s more of a problem.
Last year around this time, we said this: “Now is not the time for pointing fingers. Now is the time for extending helping hands.”
The second part remains true, always. After such an extended period of time, perhaps it’s time to readdress the first part.
It’s high time our community leaders and their provincial counterparts came up with a cold-weather shelter solution in the PQB area. Actually, last year was high time. That it remains without a concrete answer a year later is unconscionable.
It remains a polarizing issue. We have a story in this issue (Page 20) about city bylaw officials overseeing a cleanup/clearout of Mark’s Nature Park in Parksville. People who had been camping there were told to pack up and move.
Now, of course we don’t want anyone permanently living in our parks. We certainly don’t want anyone leaving filth behind or making it difficult for others to enjoy. We don’t want an endless string of crimes and petty thefts in our community.
But again, regardless of any potential ‘side’ you may be on, in one of the richest societies in the world, do we really want to have a distinct lack of options for our homeless population when it gets cold outside.
It got so bad last year, that people were temporarily sleeping in a graveyard.
Is that OK? (Hint: no.)
As we’ve said before: reasonable discourse too often degenerates into name-calling, people simply get entrenched in a position and nothing gets done. Strip away all the ‘he-said, she-said, blame the city, it’s their own fault’ rhetoric and you’re left with the potential that people in our community may not have a warm roof over their head.
One more time: it’s not a problem that’s going away. The Island, because of its mild climate, has always attracted a larger than usual number of indigent people as they seek fairer weather. But clearly it’s still not ideal, as winter includes significant rain and wind and sometimes drops into sub-zero temperatures.
People forced to live outside through the winter are going to be making more hospital visits. Not being able to stay warm and dry over an extended period takes a brutal toll on personal health.
And that will surely cost the taxpayer who contributes to each level of government much more than the potential bill for a shelter. There is value, moral and otherwise, in supporting the more marginalized members in our community.
More equitable methods of distributing funding through all levels of government must be found. It seems simple: let’s do what we can to keep all of our citizens warm and dry this winter.
Who can we count on to step up this year?