According to BC Housing Minister Selina Robinson, “A plan is in place to provide shelter and housing for all homeless campers currently staying at Goldstream Provincial Park”. But this plan was developed with no discussion with the people staying at the park or consideration of their needs. Unsurprisingly, it failed.
What if decision makers actually listened to homeless people?
What if instead of punishing, displacing, and policing people who are unhoused, municipal and provincial leaders went to tent cities and built relationships, asked what has and hasn’t worked well in existing systems, sought advice on solutions, and collaboratively developed an action plan to address immediate, short-term, and longer-term issues?
What if instead of expanding temporary shelters without any input, government asked homeless people: until there is housing that meets everyone’s needs, where is the best place for you to live? What would best protect your safety, well-being, stability, and dignity in that space?
And what if government asked: when we do build housing, what are the things you need in that housing? What makes a place feel like home? Do you need to live with other people, near other people, alone? Are there frequently accessed services, cultural communities, loved ones who you
need to live close to? Any supports that would help with feeling safe and secure in your new home?
Until we change our attitudes towards homeless people, and consider them an expert on their own lives there will never be a solution. Listening is not enough, but it is where we must start.