Though homelessness is a problem with no easy solution, there is still a lot people can do to make a difference.
In its most recent newsletter, the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness (CRDCEH) offered a few tools that can help people who may not be involved in working to end homelessness make a difference.
“We often get a lot of requests by email or in person about what can an individual do?” said Stefanie Hendrickson, coordinator for CRDCEH. “This is such a complex problem, how can an individual really make a difference?
“We all are on the same page about this. We all want homelessness to end in Campbell River. If we can put aside our differences and come together on a solution, then we’re going to be further ahead and have a better shot at making measurable change.”
Many of the groups involved in addressing homelessness are volunteer-based. That means if you’ve got a few hours to spare at the end of the day, on weekends or during the week you can make a direct difference in peoples’ lives.
Hendrickson recommends “volunteering for a program that provides services for the unhoused like Hama?Elas Community Kitchen and just meeting some of these people.
“If they’re willing to talk and you’re willing to listen, you can learn about who they are and what their story is,” she said. “It’s about breaking down some of that stigma and really listening to who they are as people.”
Other options include looking at the new action teams, or special groups set up by the CRDCEH to tackle specific problems related to homelessness prevention in Campbell River. The goal of these groups is to foster new ideas and responses to issues as they come up, and also get into the nitty gritty of dealing with current issues. For example, a group is being set up to help establish responses for emergency weather. Another is looking to bring people together to help with the rural and remote data gathering project that is ongoing.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. Hendrickson said that while there have been some communities that have made progress, what works in one area might not work in another area. However, that doesn’t mean the community should do nothing.
“You don’t just all of a sudden try one thing and it works perfectly,” Hendrickson said. “What we’re finding from communities that have been successful is that they are willing to try, even if the idea doesn’t seem that popular… There’s not a lot of neighbourhoods out there that are going to be super open to having a supportive or complex care housing facility. It’s just not something that people want to live next to. What’s the other option? It’s that we have unsheltered homelessness.”
That courage is also applicable to elected officials. Much of the money that goes to helping people experiencing homelessness comes from higher levels of government, and those representatives sometimes need encouragement from people within the communities.
“We really do need a lot of provincial and federal support, particularly provincial support when it comes to B.C. Housing and stuff. There’s a lot of things that have to align to make this happen. If it comes into alignment, I think it’s important as a community that we’re willing to support and consider such things,” Hendrickson said.
Finally, just taking the time to learn something about homelessness and how it can affect people can be a powerful way to reduce stigma. Whether that is getting to know people in the community, or reading or listening to online material about the issue, “learning and understanding is a great way to start,” Hendrickson said.
For more information about CRDCEH contact Hendrickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.