Why shel­ter solutions aren’t work­ing

Times Colonist - - Comment -

Peo­ple liv­ing in tent cities have re­peat­edly ex­plained why tem­po­rary ser­vices do not meet their needs. Ev­ery­one needs a safe place to live all the time, not just six months of the year from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

What if de­ci­sion-mak­ers lis­tened to home­less peo­ple?

What if in­stead of pun­ish­ing, dis­plac­ing and polic­ing peo­ple who are home­less, mu­nic­i­pal and pro­vin­cial lead­ers went to tent cities and other places where peo­ple are shel­ter­ing and built re­la­tion­ships, asked what has and hasn’t worked well in ex­ist­ing sys­tems, sought ad­vice on solutions and col­lab­o­ra­tively de­vel­oped an ac­tion plan to address im­me­di­ate, short-term and longer-term is­sues?

What if in­stead of ex­pand­ing tem­po­rary shel­ters with­out any in­put, gov­ern­ment asked home­less peo­ple: Un­til there is hous­ing that meets ev­ery­one’s needs, where is the best place for you to live?

What would best pro­tect your safety, well-be­ing, sta­bil­ity and dig­nity in that space?

What if gov­ern­ment asked: When we do build hous­ing, what are the things you need in that hous­ing? What makes a place feel like home? Are there fre­quently ac­cessed ser­vices, cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties, loved ones you need to live close to? Any sup­ports that would help with feel­ing safe and se­cure in your new home?

Con­sid­er­ing why these ques­tions haven’t been asked is a start. Valu­ing home­less peo­ple’s ex­per­tise on their own lives is the first step to­ward a so­lu­tion. Lis­ten­ing is not enough, but it is where we must start. Stephanie Arlt Vic­to­ria

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