Shortly after the letter below was published Nanaimo got hit with storm after storm, extremely cold weather and a dearth of snow (setting a record for Nanaimo). The extreme weather strategy came into play and lasted for a few weeks which was unexpected, most thought it might have to be implemented for only a couple of weeks throughout the winter. What it also highlighted was that the numbers of homeless in Nanaimo may not be as great as has been put out in the past. While the 20 emergency spots at the S/A remained fairly consistantly full there was usually space left of the 10 at the Unitarian Church.
Tent cities would only cause more problems
The Daily News
Published: Thursday, December 11, 2008
Re: 'One-woman campout for housing ends quietly' (Daily News, Dec. 9)
Creating tent cities would in no way address the issue of homelessness and could very well, as has been seen in other communities that have done so, cause more problems than they cure.
Nanaimo has an excellent, if costly, homeless strategy that the province has committed to support. The problem with this support is that it hinges on creating new supportive housing, 160 units, that will not see a tenant for at least two to three years.
It is well established that housing the homeless would save the province $8,000 to $12,000 per person per year. Subsidizing rents, yearly at $1,800 to $2,400, would still save the government upwards of $9,500 a year and house people much quicker. These subsidies are also a part of Nanaimo's action plan and in these tough economic times would seem a no brainer. Allowing for approximately 10,500 homeless throughout the province, some estimates are far higher, the savings would equate to roughly $100 million a year, monies that could then be funneled back into creating even more affordable housing.
If the choice in Nanaimo is to wait for the housing to be built then we, like many other communities, need a "cold wet weather strategy" that would provide extra beds for the homeless October through April. Currently, any extra beds will not kick in unless the weather is considered extreme, -5 Celsius for example, and that only for as long as deemed necessary. Solutions to get people off the streets exist and should be implemented.
Gordon W. Fuller
© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2008