OUR VIEW: Fear hurts plans to aid homeless

Every year, for the last decade and more, we’ve seen homelessness increase in the Lower Mainland.

Everyone, it seems, agrees that we need to do something about it.

We know that the problem is difficult – it requires multiple levels of government to work towards a long-term housing strategy and support from both drug rehab and mental health support services.

It also requires something we don’t talk about much – more empathy.

There is a significant fraction of the population – maybe a majority, maybe a minority – who fear and even hate the homeless.

Those living on the streets are frequently blamed for their own situation.

If they had chosen not to do drugs… if they would just get a job… if they weren’t so lazy… If, if if.

It’s certainly not an attitude that’s unique to Langley, B.C., or even Canada.

It stems from fear, not of the homeless, but of what might happen to each of us.

By blaming the homeless for their own situation, we pretend it could never happen to us, to our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers.

Blaming them ignores the factors – from the economy to housing costs to mental health – that have vastly increased the number of people living on the streets. Hundreds of people did not suddenly choose this lifestyle in the last decade.

We can’t solve the issue of homelessness if a good portion of the voters don’t want it to be solved. Simply wishing the homeless would go away, and blaming them entirely for their misfortune, helps neither the homeless nor the wider society of which they are a part.

Black Press