Opinion

Governments need to address housing

To automatically expect that everyone living in a big house should take in someone in need of affordable housing is unrealistic. Otherwise my street alone could house half a dozen homeless individuals if we chose to provide them with living accommodations at the risk of upsetting our lives.

We have heat, water, and electricity, beds, laundry equipment, fully functioning kitchens. Our driveways could park another vehicle. Our yards have space for kids to play, fences to keep them safe. Both transit and school buses stop nearby.

Stories of homeless squeezed out by exorbitant rental rates and dwindling affordable rental spaces are disturbing. I want to reach out to every unfortunate I learn about. But what regrets might I face? Homelessness doesn’t guarantee good manners or adherence to rules.

Based on limited personal experience but ample tales told by those who have regretted throwing open their doors, I hesitate to make such a foolhardy gesture. I’ve heard accounts of rowdy individuals, kids who walk on furniture and bounce on beds, break faucets, plug plumbing, play ear-splitting music to all hours, never tidy behind themselves, leave the house in shambles, litter the yard and perturb neighbours. They might appreciate little, demand more.

Admitting ingrates can lead to months of friction and household disruption, culminating in going to court and paying expensive lawyers to oust them. Sharing a home with incompatible people is akin to toughing it out in a mother-in-law’s home.

What guarantee could I have someone would respect my wishes and property, (some don’t even respect their own property!), not rifle my belongings or steal while I’m gone? What if they left my gate open and my dogs out to be run over or mess neighbours’ driveways? Either scenario would be upsetting and bring hefty fines. Suppose they helped themselves to my vehicle?

Carol Sabo at the Ksan Transition House encourages families – those already homeless or about to become homeless – to fill out a BC Housing application (available off the internet or from an agency) and have their need verified by an agency. This would place them on a BC Housing vacancy list.

Unfortunately, vacancies anywhere in the province are scarce, and moving to a distant vacancy would necessitate changing schools and doctors and leaving behind family and friends.

Luckily, “Poverty is not a lifetime sentence for those who work hard and never give up.”

As examples, American actor Tyler Perry lived for months in his car, working at a menial day job, at the same time writing one failed movie script after another before he sold one. Today he creates and acts in his own movies, making millions. And at age 16, Canadian actor-comedian Jim Carrey and his Newmarket, Ontario family lived in their vehicle. His father worked as a janitor; Carrey helped him after classes each day. Now acting in a single movie earns Carrey $20 million.

We’ve all worked long and hard to acquire our homes and deserve serenity in our senior years. Just because we may live alone at the moment is no reason to expect us to provide lodging for any homeless individual or family. I’ll admit the prospect of congenial company and ready backup in case of a medical emergency sounds tempting, only the tradeoff might not be worth the aggravation.

We pay the taxes we are assessed. It is up to governments to plan and budget to provide living accommodation for those squeezed out by resource bonanzas. Victoria touts the tax revenues to be gained from LNG and an oil pipeline, yet it has failed to foresee the many social disruptions both projects are creating.

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