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LETTER: What does Castlegar truly think about housing and homelessness?

Reader Reidun Rosi challenges the community’s attitudes

Submitted by Reidun Rosi

I feel like I am with a group of people, watching a smaller group of people, talk about homelessness.

What does our community truly think about housing and homelessness?

The 2019 Castlegar Study by Hugh McGillivray (CDCSS) demonstrated that there appears to be some Castlegar residents, furthering the narrative that we do not care about people without homes. Why is this important? As the study further explained, attitudes and stigma regarding these issues are often a part of what keep people immobile.

What say ye Castlegar folks?

I work remotely for a large charity in Toronto that runs emergency shelter and supportive housing. We believe that everyone deserves a home. At some of our supportive housing sites, we have successfully housed high and complex needs individuals for decades.

Housing professionals are frequently asked to put forward innovative solutions in bringing an end to homelessness. Our answer is simply this, invest in upstream solutions and build housing.

Upstream solutions mean supports to intervene before homelessness occurs in the first place; increased mental health supports, eviction prevention supports, having a coordinated access system for vulnerable people in our community.

Supportive housing offers the proven opportunity to successfully exit homelessness. It is also a highly effective strategy to help people struggling with chronic physical pain, mental health, and various other issues, maintain stable housing and receive appropriate care. Studies and research over recent decades prove that housing with supports for people do not increase crime or decrease property values.

When you hear the words “supportive housing” what does that look like to you?

For my organization it can vary between our different sites, but basically for individuals in need; it is deeply affordable and there are staff who can check-in and help someone with mental health issues pay their rent on time, or they can make sure people with chronic illnesses manage their diet and medicine properly.

I can see where this might be going — where’s the funding? Cue scene from the movie Jerry Maguire. Show me the moneyyyyy!

Speaking from direct experience in the housing and homelessness sector, I would like to say that the money you require to support your community, is not always waiting out there for the taking. Sometimes you have to develop the funding you need. How? We need to come together and advocate as a group.

There are some tireless advocates in our community that have been fighting the good fight for a very long time. As a community member of Castlegar for three-plus years, I am proud of those who speak out about this cause and those who recognize that this is the time to act and emerge better as a community following the pandemic.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have endured unthinkable hardships. Being dedicated to bringing safe, stable housing to all, is now even more important.

Someone has asked me, “Why should we get involved?” Because “those people” and the homelessness that is hidden or in plain sight on our streets — this is our community. Supportive housing is the best example of how well we are doing as a community. It shows if we are taking care of the people who are less fortunate.

This problem isn’t going to go away. We need to start investing in sustainable long-lasting solutions.

What can you do?

• Start talking about it

• Read up on supportive housing, what other cities are doing – Yellowknife, Medicine Hat

• Write a letter to city council and the housing committee about supportive housing – do you need a template? Reach out to me

• Help empower a people living without homes, people with lived experience, vulnerable and/or marginalized voices in the community – provide a platform

• Volunteer

• Donate to a services agency in town

Don’t let a small group control the narrative.

Reidun Rosi

Castlegar

Homeless

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