EDITORIAL: More than just a roof needed

Homelessness is a complex issue that won't be easily solved

Homelessness is a complex issue and there is no easy fix. While some would argue that putting a roof over someone’s head solves a lot of problems, it doesn’t necessary address the issues that cause homelessness.

We appreciate the governement funds pouring in to create spaces to house our homeless residents – and a number of others that have appeared in our region during recent months. We also appreciate the local groups that have stepped up to run these facilities and offer a number of services to those that need them. But we can’t help but wonder if this concrete step will be the last and after the short-term funding commitments run out, will there be more to sustain these programs?

According to the West Shore RCMP’s first quarter (Jan. 1 to March 31) crime statistics, incidents of mental health acts are up 26 per cent with 36 more reported this year compared to last. Without more funding to address the causes of homelessness, such as mental illness, we will continue to see our residents sleeping on streets, couch surfing and in shelters.

With the court mandated eviction deadline fast approaching for tent city, we wonder if Victoria’s visible homeless population will suddenly become much less apparent as the residents move into these new facilities. And as the old adage goes, out of sight, out of mind.

It’s easy to say Victoria has a homelessness problem that needs to be addressed. But homelessness is a regional issue, one in which we all share some responsibility. All of the municipalities within the Capital Regional District have homeless residents, some end up downtown and some make up that invisible homeless demographic. Here on the West Shore, we struggle with the latter, which includes a large number of youth.

When the transitional shelter in View Royal opened it shone a light on that relatively invisible group, causing some tension in the neighbourhood but also pointing to the fact that more long-term services are needed, not just in Victoria but on the West Shore and across the region.

A roof won’t fix the region’s homelessness problem, but it’s a good place to start.

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