Safety for campers at the tent city in Saanich’s Regina Park has been discussed, but safety for the neighbourhood is also part of the equation. Wolf Depner/News Staff

EDITORIAL: ‘Dislike’ of homeless people a red herring

Negative actions of the few do little to engender empathy for plight of unhoused campers

Camp Nemegans, the homeless encampment currently situated at Regina Park in Saanich, is eliciting similar comments to those heard more than two years ago, when Victoria’s tent city housed upwards of 300 people on the back lawn of the B.C. Law Courts building.

Conversations on social media, and from some of the folks living at this site a dangerous jaunt across the Trans-Canada Highway from Uptown shopping centre, indicate that “people just don’t like the homeless.”

While there are certainly those in our communities with little patience or empathy for people who, for various reasons, find themselves living outdoors in urban public spaces, we disagree with that blanket statement.

For the majority, there’s no inherent dislike for individuals who happen to be homeless. But even sympathetic people can have their patience tested by the negative effects of such a community on a neighbourhood. In this case, Saanich police have reported increased crime in the area – including at Uptown – as the camp has grown, while neighbours tell of other new disruptive and disrespectful behaviours in the days since the camp was set up.

We are blessed to live in a society where people are free to do almost whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the peace and well-being of others. But, within our diverse populations there will be those among us who cannot or will not live by the basic rules of society. Sometimes mental health problems or addictions can further push these people to act inappropriately.

Most would agree everyone deserves to have a home of some sort, but governments creating housing for people isn’t the only answer. Those living in temporary communities also need to be act concientiously if they want their needs to be taken seriously.

It seems we have to find a way to separate the negative actions of the few from the homelessness issue in general. While that is truly a difficult task to accomplish, it must be done nonetheless for us to make headway in getting people housed.

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