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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Letters to the Editor (part four)

The following are some of my letters to the editor over the past couple years. I have found, since submitting my first many years ago, that this is a means, one widely read, to express an opinion on events in the city and realms further afield. I fully encourage people to write letters to the editors of what some fondly consider our local rags, though don’t be surprised when they appear and are edited by the paper. In one letter I submitted the editor changed one word, eliminated one sentence and totally changed the context of what I was saying. 

Re: NDP opposition critic for Homelessness & Mental Health
It was my pleasure to recently spend a few hours with the NDP Opposition Critic for Homelessness and Mental Health. On by far the day of the worst weather to date, pouring rain after 2 days of snow fall, I have to be honest and say I half expected a call cancelling his visit. Never one to make assumptions, at least I do my best not to, I walked down to the 7-10 Club to meet him for his scheduled visit at 7:30am and low and behold he and his two person entourage showed up, on time and ready to go.
As much as most people would view David Chudnovsky’s trip with some degree of skepticism, it seems more often than not the shared view of politicians is one of blowhards just out for a photo op, all talk and no action. Hey again I have to admit my view, despite knowing a number of honourable politicians, is that most will gladly be there to cut the ribbon but have little or no experiential knowledge of just what it is they are cutting it for, other than of course the photo op.
To give credit where credit is due Mr Chudnovsky is, in my opinion, taking the issues of homelessness and Mental Health seriously. He sat and spoke to a number of patrons of the 7-10 Club. We then proceeded to walk through the downtown in the rain and slush, speaking to a few others, to visit Samaritan House Shelter for Women. How the rest of his tour of Nanaimo went I don’t know but in the time I spent with him I must say I gained a level of respect for the man and yes the politician. If the rest of David’s journey continues to enlighten him to the realities of homelessness then it can only benefit the population if the NDP come to power in BC. Here’s hoping that his example will spur the ruling class to do a bit of the same.

Re: Liberal funding for homelessness
Recent funding for homelessness announced by the Liberal Government is less than a drop in the bucket and further maintains outdated ideas and band-aid solutions to addressing homelessness in BC. With no new affordable housing on the horizon the government can throw as much as they want at outreach and shelters but without a home to be placed in the money could be just as, or more than, effectively given to the homeless themselves.
While sadly there will always be a need for shelters they are expensive. The $21,850 yearly expense per bed at Samaritan House, based on a budget of $437,000 for its 20 beds, would fund 3 single apartment units per year. Multiplied by 20 that equals 60 apartment units per year. Throw in the cost of the 25 beds at the Salvation Army’s shelter and you are looking at a total of 135 units of housing on a yearly basis.
If Gordon Campbell’s government wants municipalities to provide land for affordable housing then the Provincial and Federal Governments should provide matching funds, based on the market value of the land, towards building the housing. The means to eliminate homelessness are there, but without the will on the part of all levels of government homelessness will be an issue for years to come.

Re; Unfair to lay 7-10 Club problems on city council shoulders.
I must thank Mr. Tieleman for his recognition that the 7-10 Club is a “much needed organization,” though it leads one to wonder exactly why then was he so opposed to its relocation that he devoted an entire Web Blog to spreading misinformation about the service and its relocation. Rather than accusing Rev. Lon Towestago of “piling blame on the residents of Harewood,” when in fact Rev. Towestago only mentions “some vocal citizens,” Mr Tieleman should perhaps look closer to home. Through the use of scare tactics, misinformation and bigoted comments posted anonymously about the poor, his Blog site contributes greatly to influence the negative view of Harewood residents.  
It is unfortunate that many of those opposed to the 7-10 Club moving into the neighbourhood, including Jack Tielman, chose not to go to the 7-10 Club and see for themselves the value of such a service. If they had they would have seen that by far the vast majority of people using the service are simply Families, Individuals and even Students who cannot make ends meet despite the growth in the economy. They would have seen people that for the most part are their neighbours, currently living quietly amongst them, in Harewood and surrounding neighbourhoods. They would have seen that the Fire Hall would have been an ideal replacement site for the 7-10 Club.
The vast majority of people in Harewood are by no means NIMBY’s, sadly they are being coloured by the minority, “some vocal citizens,” who had no qualms about spreading false information and apparently wish to continue doing so.
Ironically this is exactly what happened to the 7-10 Club, the view of the many being influenced by the actions of but a few.

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