EDITORIAL: No easy answers for homeless camp

Camp Nemegans, the homeless encampment currently situated at Regina Park near Uptown, is eliciting comments similar to those heard more than two years ago when Victoria’s tent city housed upwards of 300 people on the back lawn of the B.C. Law Courts building.

Conversations on social media and from some of the folks living near this site a dangerous jaunt across the Trans-Canada Highway from Uptown shopping centre, indicate that “people just don’t like the homeless.”

While there are certainly those in our communities with little patience or empathy for people who, for various reasons, find themselves living outdoors in urban public spaces, the issue is more subtle than such a blanket statement.

For the majority, there’s no inherent dislike for individuals who happen to be homeless. But even sympathetic people can have their patience tested by the fears created when a community springs up in their backyard literally overnight. Saanich Police have reported increased crime in the area as the camp has grown, while some neighbours tell of other disruptive behaviour in the days since the camp was set up. Others living near by have been more welcoming, saying they too may only be a paycheque away from finding themselves in a similar situation to the Regina Park campers.

We are blessed to live in a society where people are free to do almost whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the peace and well-being of others. The problems arise when people’s right to seek shelter brings disruption to others’ right to enjoy the comforts of their own homes.

Almost all of us would agree that everyone deserves to have a home of some sort, but governments creating housing for people isn’t the only answer. We need to strike a delicate balance of providing a safe shelter to those in need, while mitigating the impacts of the actions of a few on the community around them.

While that is truly a difficult task to accomplish, it must be done nonetheless for us to make headway in getting people housed.

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