CITY OF Terrace councillors say more public education about homelessness is needed following a survey of young people on the issue.
The survey was conducted by the Terrace youth advisory committee and gave a snapshot from 188 students from Caledonia Secondary and Skeena Middle School, showing how they view the issue and how they believe it can be addressed.
Councillor Michael Prevost said he was concerned by some of the student quotes.
“Some of them really speak to the need to educate people around the stereotypes of homelessness, because some of the comments were quite harsh and off the cuff, without really thinking about some of the deeper impacts,” he said.
“It’s easy to generalize and make assumptions.”
One 15-year-old Caledonia student was quoted as saying “the government needs to stop giving them money. And cut their welfare in half.”
A 14-year-old Skeena student said homelessness could be alleviated by getting rid of drug dealers and limiting alcohol for the homeless.
Other students suggested providing shelter, donations, job ideas and rehab for those who need it.
One 16-year-old from Caledonia said “Set up shelters that helps put people on their feet. Send them to rehab if they need it. Help with job ideas and resumes or other forms needed…”
A 15-year-old from Caledonia said, “Offering more homeless shelters is an obvious option. Companies and businesses could offer more opportunities for people to make money. If someone really wants the money, they should work for it.”
Councillor Stacey Tyers said that for her, some of the survey responses raised concern because it shows how the harsh and thoughtless comments people make indicate how people see each other.
“I think that it is really important as adults and role models and leaders in the community… the language we use and the way that we talk about other human beings, is really impactful to children,” she said.
“Part of [addressing that problem] is getting into the education system and teaching more about [the issue].”
Image caption: Responses from 188 Caledonia students about their view on the priority ways to help homeless.
Tyers said she was also a little concerned that shelters was the number one response from students about how to address homelessness.
“As long as there is no housing, we will just keep having full shelters,” Tyers said. “You can build as many beds as you can, but if there is no where for people to move, they are just going to stay in shelters.”
The youth advisory committee also developed a video about homelessness to help educate people about the issue, its causes and what is needed to help. It included footage of local social service workers, the RCMP, and several residents of Terrace.
Ryan Kunar, one of the youth on the committee, presented the survey and the video to city council at a meeting last night, Aug. 22, and said they plan to post the video online and share and spread it as far as they can.