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Coming together to tackle homelessness could make Campbell River a ‘trailblazer’

‘But make no mistake, it will be messy’ - CRDCEH coordinator
Stefanie Hendrickson is the coordinator for the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

Eradicating homelessness will take leadership, unity and compassion, the coordinator of the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness told Campbell River city council.

But don’t expect it to be easy, Stefanie Hendrickson said.

“We would like mayor and council to be our partners on the road to eradicating homelessness and encouraging affordable housing,” Hendrickson said at council’s Aug. 16 Committee of the Whole meeting. “But make no mistake, it will be messy.”

Hendrickson appeared before council to encourage “back and forth dialogue” with mayor and council. This would help both organizations to understand their common ground and explore the most promising practices across the province and country and work together on collaborative solutions as a community, she said.

But these are human problems and solutions are not linear, Hendrickson said.

“We will fail, adjust and try again,” she said. “It will take courage and strong leadership with a clear vision. We will come up against barriers. There will be NIMBYism. There will be stigma and rumors. Myths will circulate. Unpopular decisions will need to be made – unpopular, not because they are wrong, but because they’re unfamiliar.”

Capacity from all sectors is an ongoing problem and social and economic disruptions from COVID are continuing, she added.

“We recognize that the barriers are significant. Yet with strong leadership, the knowledge of multiple sectors, expert advice, and a community that comes together in respectful dialogue, we believe we can create solutions, we can be trailblazers.”

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Hendrickson said the city can be a key partner in reducing current homelessness and preventing future homelessness. Municipal resources are not going to solve the issue but municipal leadership can help leverage provincial and federal resources and explore opportunities within the Local Government Act to streamline a diverse inventory of safe, stable and affordable housing development.

There is common ground to be found in a shared dislike of homelessness, a desire to find solutions that work and concern for the community at large and they “are all a great place to start,” Hendrickson said.

“Yet it feels as though we’ve gotten lost in a bit of us versus them,” she said. “Conversations related to homelessness in our community have devolved in a way that is encouraging anger and fear.”

People talk about the need to be tough on people experiencing homeless through enforcement or that policies that show kindness get no results.

“We’d like to point out that compassion should not be confused with meekness,” Hendrickson said. “Some of the most promising practices provide the best outcomes for the unhoused as well as the host communities. There exist responses that respect unhoused people’s human rights and also provide positive outcomes for the community as a whole.

“It is not one way or the other, it is not left or right, it is not us or them.”

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CRDCEH is asking for opportunities for collaborative dialogue, “so that we can learn beside one another and make the best decisions based on well-reasoned logic, using research and fact and the most promising practices so that we can advocate together, build relationships with our provincial and federal partners together and create opportunities for both both evidence-based and innovative solutions, so that we can create a plan together that defines the roles and responsibilities of all partners.

“A community plan to end homelessness.”

This is not a partisan issue, Hendrickson said.

“This is a human issue,” she said.

Campbell River is a community of passion and increasing collaboration, she said. The City of Campbell River’s support of Q’waxsem Place, Eagle Harbour and Second Chance Recovery – among many other locations – are examples of multi sector collaboration.

“The community has done so much already and yet there’s more that we can do,” Hendrickson said.

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