EDITORIAL: Homelessness isn’t going to disappear

Sadly, more than one-third of Victoria and Esquimalt residents say they don’t believe homelessness is an issue in their community

Although we might want to wish it away, homelessness is here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future.

In an ideal world things would be different, but homelessness is a problem the world over, not an issue that Greater Victoria has to deal with alone.

Consequently, we were taken aback last week when it was announced that more than one-third of Victoria and Esquimalt residents queried in the recent Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness survey say they don’t believe that homelessness is an issue in their community. Their views were mirrored in other Capital Region municipalities.

Sadly, it’s a mistaken perception.

There were 1,659 people in Greater Victoria who made use of a shelter in 2012-13. As of March 2013, 1,477 were on the wait-list for B.C. Housing and 20,524 used a food bank in one month alone.

“There are people experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness across the region – it is not just a downtown issue,”  said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the coalition, which conducts the poll throughout the region every January.

Homelessness comes in many forms, from those begging on downtown streets, to those a paycheque away from becoming homeless, right through to teens couching surfing in their friend’s apartment.

As we’ve commented before, we can’t continue to bury our heads and hope the problem goes away. It won’t solve itself without some sort of intervention from government and other organizations.

Obviously, there needs to be more public education on the issue.

If one-third of the survey respondents do not think homelessness is an issue, then the word isn’t getting out beyond nonprofit organizations and those involved with the issue directly.

You only need to open your eyes to see the devastation of homelessness. Pretending the problem isn’t there is a tragedy that will only make the problem worse.