Hugh McGillavry

OPINION: Insights emerge on homelessness in Castlegar

Hugh McGillavry talks about homelessness.

While it is premature to offer results from a research project looking at homelessness in Castlegar until the study is complete, it is appropriate to offer some insights based on what we have so far.

While the survey is ongoing it’s my task to keep researching homelessness, poverty and labour mobility. A couple of things have become clear. First, we are not lacking the resources or the social structures to eradicate poverty, unemployment or homelessness. Work BC, for example, has extensive and comprehensive services. The provincial and federal governments have provided funding for housing, and BC Housing has provided some innovative solutions as well.

Nor do we lack the know-how, or the intellectual powers to solve these issues. The people of Castlegar are not special this way; the problems are just not what they’ve been made out to be. Nor are we against taking care of these issues. According to the survey results so far, Castlegar would deal with these problems today and put it all behind them.

Having looked at it all this way, I doubt that anyone is surprised. Homelessness and poverty are held in place artificially. They are not “natural” or “just the way things are,” or even economic necessities, as some might suggest. The reasons for that artificial holding pattern, I can say with certainty, are not consistent with this community’s spirit.

It has turned out that no individual, business, or group, can profit alone as much as they would together. There is no credible research suggesting that poverty and unemployment are somehow beneficial, but plenty suggesting the opposite. Even so there is an unspoken thought that some people will either weather it, or come out ahead afterward, or even succeed in spite of it. Whatever that train of thought, it runs out of track as poverty increases.

The reality is that poverty, unemployment and labour mobility are also measures of the profits lost, in general, throughout the economy. Social supports go up, while productivity goes down. Everybody’s money buys less and less. It’s a simple formula: If we don’t like paying for social supports, then housing, jobs and labour mobility are the cure for what ails us. General prosperity is just far more profitable than anything else.

Hugh McGillivray is a family support worker with Castlegar and District Community Services.

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