EDITORIAL: It’s time to stop stereotyping Port Alberni’s homeless population

Homelessness is so much more than a bunch of tents and tarps…

Nanaimo’s Discontent City and other “tent cities” made up of people who are without a home or permanent residence have put a public face to homelessness on Vancouver Island in recent weeks and months. It hasn’t been a good face, judging from numerous comments and social media posts on the Alberni Valley News’ Facebook page as well as others.

Activists with their own agendas intentionally stirring the pot haven’t helped.

Homelessness is so much more than a bunch of tents and tarps gathered defiantly in one spot, usually on public property, trying to make a statement.

Homelessness isn’t just about drug addicts and criminals who prowl the streets of Port Alberni and every other city and town on Vancouver Island. Homelessness is a far more complex issue.

It’s families who can’t find adequate housing in a tight rental market. It’s people who are couch surfing because they don’t make enough on their minimum wage jobs to pay rent.

It’s people on disability who need help.

It’s seniors who need assistance but find there aren’t enough options for them, or places for them to go when they can no longer live at home.

It’s people who leave violent relationships with nothing but the clothes on their back and have to start over.

It’s people who need support to get them back on their feet again after surviving whatever crisis that got them there in the first place.

It’s acknowledging that yes, we have a problem. We have a housing crisis in Port Alberni. We also have an opioid crisis. The two are not mutually exclusive in their needs.

Labeling people with broad brushstrokes—namecalling, using demeaning language when it comes to people who are homeless or of no fixed address—won’t solve the problem of homelessness.

Whatever we are going to do to solve this problem, we need to do it open-mindedly without the blinders of stereotypes.

We must acknowledge that homelessness has many faces, and they all need our help.

— Alberni Valley News

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