Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A solution to homelessness: minor rant.

Disclaimer: This is a half-thought-out rant. I have been trying NOT to post this all day, but sometimes you just gotta shoot from the gut and get it off your chest. Comments welcome - but cut a frustrated guy some slack.

I know I've mentioned it before, but with Homelessness Action Week in full swing on the mainland (and getting lots of talk here on the Island as well) I'm going to state my solution to homelessness one more time:

The solution to homelessness is to build more homes.

Yes, it's that simple.

No home = homeless.
New home = not homeless.

On the other hand:
The solution to poverty, abuse, the gap between rich and poor, lack of AFFORDABLE housing - things that LEAD to homelessness - these are less straightforward issues.

Maybe (one of) the reason(s) we've got so many people on the street is that "homelessness" is too narrow an issue to tackle. Sure, dealing with what tosses people out into the cold in the first place makes the problem seem that much larger, but at least then we'd be working toward the root of the travesty eh?!

Let's call a spade a spade shall we. Let's build some affordable housing and give people a roof over their heads so they can have the stability to get the rest of their life in order.



jshelley78 said...

Hey dude,
I respectfully disagree (realizing, of course, that this post was more of a musing than a creedal statement of conviction).

Toronto tried the "build houses = no homeless" approach .. the result? A bunch of affordable and very empty dwelling units.

The factors of homelessness are exceptionally deep, diverse, and as unique as any one individual is. A house, a physical structure, does nothing to alleviate the majority of root issues: addictions, disabilities (especially mental), emotional scarring, social inabilities, etc., etc. This is not fixed with a roof, its a long, long relational road that - actually - doesn't even guarantee a "fix" at the end.

I'm all for providing spaces and places (shelters, halfway housing, etc) for people to put their lives back together -- but simply building houses is, at best, dealing with "houselessness" ... foundational to our understanding of poverty should be (i think) realizing that we don't actually help anybody (in terms of social "functionality") until we have helped them become self-sufficient... and we don't make people self-sufficient simply by putting a roof over their head.

James Kingsley said...

thanks so much for the comments james - especially the grace to acknowledge that i'm just trying to work these thoughts out in public rather than make a definitive statement!

i love your use of the word "houselessness." i think it answers some of the questions i'm trying to work through. my fear is that "homelessness" is too "catch-all" a phrase to allow positive steps to be taken.

the issues i listed, plus the issues you listed (plus the issues neither of us know anything about as we type this with a roof over our heads) are massive, and as you so exceptionally state "individual." that's got to be the rub here eh? perhaps another brick along the road to "solutions" is to pay attention to individuals as much as we rail against the "system."

thanks for keeping the conversation going - it's really helping me clarify things on my end here.


AJ Renton said...

Good convo.

I think the journey you've taken so far is caluable and enlightening. Our fixation on macro level things such as 'homelessness' or 'the system' or 'affordable housing' may in fact have a limitation in themselves. Although good to discuss, I think the idea of spending more time with the individual is paramount to our understanding and potential soluting of this 'problem.' And as James said, we may release that the solution is in some ways not a fix at all.

What I'm saying is that we spend too much time talking and thinking and proposing and not enough time getting to know individuals. If everyone who cared about homelessness in Victoria got to know just 1 person living on the street, then each would have at least 5 caring people supporting them I'm sure. The poor, sick, addicted, etc. are always going to be present and will never be totally 'fixed.' Otherwise who could we pratice our hospitality, grace, and generosity on? We shouldn't be trying to 'solve the problem' as much as find a person to love and support. Just one person. With a loving a supportive group of people around you (family?) the proposals of such conferences and services of shelters and low-income housing may actually be effective in redeeming these individuals. And with redemption, they can begin to reach out to those that are new on the street. Homelessness will never be solved, but individuals can be redeemed.

Sorry for ranting myself. I'm not sure where that came from and I'm now scared for people will reply. But, I'll post anyways.

James Kingsley said...

thanks for keeping things rolling aj!

yet another example where less is more eh?! well put.

AJ Renton said...

The Times Colonist reports on Victoria's newest plan for dealing with our street population:

James Kingsley said...

thanks for the link andy. it was pretty sweet to read the emphasis on "wrapped in support" that seems to be going along with the drive...