People don’t like to see homeless camps because they shame us in our willful failure to provide the occupants with the basics of human life. Now the Bourgeois Burghers in their comfortable chairs around the Saanich council table have decided to use the cudgel of the law to drive them away but to where? Anatole France had it right when he said: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” That quote should be engraved above the entrance of every courthouse.
Words like “mentally ill, drug addicted, and petty criminals” get used regularly as descriptors of the homeless. But those epithets characterize just as many people who live in the nice houses of Broadmead and Gordon Head. Ask any police officer. Our taxes pay for expensive TV ads encouraging us to empathize with middle-class drug addicts and mentally ill but not the poor and homeless.
An apocryphal, but nevertheless wise man, supposedly said two millennia ago: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Those beliefs also appear in various forms among most major world faiths. So on the way to the many, varied houses of worship, whether you go to one or not, think to yourself, “What have I done for the homeless this week?” as they camp along the public highway in all their misery and wretchedness. Anything?