As the Oct. 15 municipal election approaches, the Observer is giving candidates an opportunity to share
who they are and why they are running, and answer questions about issues affecting the community.
Candidates were asked: Does the city have a greater role to play in responding to homelessness, and what steps would you support the city taking?
There are a wide variety of agencies both locally and provincially that have access to supports and funding to assist those with financial, mental health and/or addiction challenges that lead to homelessness.
We as a city could dedicate a staff member to social development to liaise with these agencies to coordinate the city’s efforts in alleviating the hardship of homelessness. Secondly, we need to work on increasing the inventory of rentals in the community so there are more affordable options for all.
Because in Salmon Arm, everyone matters.
Over the past term, council worked with partners to build 67 subsidized housing units and 38 supportive units. These supportive units are filled with residents who were living on the streets. Collaboration and partnerships build houses. Local taxpayers cannot afford to do it alone.
For those who are difficult to house due to addiction and/or mental health issues, we work with the province, who are responsible for these areas. Outreach workers have been added.
While we need to act with compassion and tolerance, we also need to ensure the safety of all, by not permitting camping on city property.
I met with two community groups last week regarding our homeless population.
Our council will take a leading role in this initiative. From my direct talks with individuals living on the streets and in the parks, access to showers and laundry service is needed to offer people a sense of dignity to begin lifting themselves out. This first step must be accomplished as a joint effort with all municipalities across B.C. Immediately though, we need to provide shelter for the coming winter. The only shelter available has closed its doors and we need to act now.
Of course, the city needs to act on the homelessness issue, because that shows there is an imbalance within the city. Also, it affects the city budget, safety and the cleanliness of the town, so no doubt city must be proactive.
We need to create a dialogue between the homeless people, to find out what’s the reason they are on the streets and together find solutions. Following: “The true help is not to give a fish to somebody but to teach him how to fish.”
I think the city has been responding to homelessness, though there is more that can be done.
Our current mayor and council, as well as city staff, have worked closely with the province to build 70 plus new affordable housing units – 38 of which are supportive (i.e. access to a range of mental health services). Council also successfully advocated for a homeless outreach worker and recently received word that the province will be adding three more workers. If elected, I will continue to support best practices and advocate for more resources from the province and the federal government.
I would ask the people dealing with this issue in a front-line capacity what needs to change to have a more meaningful impact.
Mental health and substance abuse are core issues to be addressed. From my experience, people will not seek help until they are ready. Having that help available is paramount to breaking the cycle.
If Salmon Arm becomes too supportive and accepting, it could become a haven for other homeless populations. A firm, supportive stance would help establish expectations we have as a community.
Keeping the cost of living low would help people keep their homes.
Homelessness is a growing issue in municipalities across Canada. Salmon Arm is not immune to this complex problem. The solutions are not simple, and building housing is extremely expensive.
Local taxpayers cannot afford to solve these issues alone.
The Housing Task Force and Social Issues Advisory Committee have worked together with senior governments and wonderful local agencies to add 38 supported housing units (housing the most vulnerable ) and 67 subsidized units. At UBCM we also successfully lobbied for more community support workers. The advocacy and partnerships must continue, and inventory must keep being added throughout the housing spectrum, especially rentals.
Homelessness is one component of the affordable housing crisis that is affecting municipalities across Canada and North America.
The city can play a leadership role to coordinate the opportunities the CHMA and BC Housing can provide with private developers and non-profit organizations to create more living spaces for our homeless population.
Solving the issue of homelessness requires community effort.
People with understanding of the situation have run into city imposed road blocks when discussing a solution. The city needs to remove these barriers to open channels of communication. It is council’s responsibility to discuss these issues and support ideas.
We need to assist our homeless back into health and recovery. The first step would be reopening the shelters, then encourage recovery with the help of individuals who have lived through the experience and achieved success. Followed by second stage housing, along with volunteer and work experience provided by the community.
I’m generally not in favour of the government solving problems; but, until we can figure that out, the city should be working with the province to provide housing and support to keep people off the streets. It’s much more cost-effective than allowing people to be out there committing crimes, getting arrested, getting sick and over-dosing – to say nothing of the fact that these are human beings who deserve the dignity and respect of being cared for and supported.
Salmon Arm is doing its utmost as a small community. The city is compassionately responding to poverty, homelessness and those vulnerable to homelessness through our coordinated Social Impact Committee and providing tax exemptions for agencies delivering critical services.
We will continue to advocate with senior governments who have the responsibility for funding more supportive housing, mental-health services and outreach worker positions. Our community is best placed to address local priorities but we require the funding to do so much more effectively.
I will continue to press for this needed funding. See timlavery.ca for more.
Homelessness is complicated by mental health and addictions and in these cases housing alone won’t solve the problem.
Job loss and health issues contribute. Its not a problem that is within a small city’s mandate or its financial ability to solve; housing is built by developers and, in some cases, by the provincial or federal government as part of a social housing strategy. Having said that, some communities have attempted to provide interim solutions such flexible bylaws and tiny houses.
I am supportive of zoning and bylaw changes to allow tiny homes and am in favour of Salmon Arm.
Louise Wallace Richmond
Yes. The longer and more important answer starts with compassion.
People without homes are not the problem. Our singular focus on homelessness muddies our understanding of housing, stigmatizes those living it and weakens our trust of effective solutions. Encampments are dangerous and not viable, even short term. Temporary shelter is an emergency response, not a long-term solution. We need scaleable, adaptable and sustainable housing options to meet the complex needs of our most vulnerable. I will continue to follow the guidance of our dedicated social services sector and advocate at all levels to partner, collaborate, and resource those needs.
Yes. The city was desperately late on foreshadowing the housing crisis and now it is our responsibility to keep not just the unhoused safe, but the rest of the community safe as well.
I would work in partnership with BC Housing and service providers on solutions like providing land for safe, temporary housing. This would include supports like harm reduction, outreach, as well as temporary amenities like porta potties and barracks-style showers. These are not permanent solutions, they are stop-gap measures while the affordable housing projects we have in the works are built and we continue to add.
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