Homelessness and the Troubles of Moving From NIMBY to YIMBY.

I think about homelessness a lot.  What it is and how it comes to be.  Social circumstance, mental health issues, domestic abuse, unaffordable housing, economic downturns; These are all elements that non-exclusively contribute to what is largely viewed as a homeless blight on our urban (and rural)  neighbourhoods but would be better regarded as a failing from a society bent on individualistic consumer goals.  Our North American existence is set against a  backdrop of government budget cuts and a Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) philosophy based on aesthetics and fear. Homelessness is criminalized and sensationalized, effectively stripping the humanity from street populations.

Homelessness is painted with a broad brush and most people misunderstand the true scope of what it means to be without a home.  It’s not just about physical bodies occupying physical space in our city streets.  The lack of tangible shelter creates an emotional vacuum and replaces well-being with fear  and certainty with uncertainty. A stable place to rest ones head  instills confidence and a sense of security but the lack of said shelter exacerbates a wide range of problems for a demographic that is already harassed by poorly trained police forces, thwarted by municipal and provincial policies, unable to predict and plan for mundane aspects of daily life that most of us take for granted, and shunned by the majority of the population.

When we think about homelessness we think about single individuals begging for our money at inopportune times (man those shopping bags are heavy), block our paths downtown, are visibly intoxicated, and OBVIOUSLY making no contribution to our city living minus the added threat of dirty needles and something extra to step over on our way to work in the morning.  What is the reality?  The reality is that well-paying jobs are hard to come by in the post recession economy and wages have not kept up to inflation.  Housing on the west coast is really expensive, and competition for vacancies is high as municipally supported housing developments absolutely do not cater to affordable housing.  What emerges is an impoverished working class that hold down jobs but do no make enough money to maintain a fixed address.  Here on the west coast we see entire families that couch serf for indefinite periods of time.  The kids go to school and the parents go to work while having no real sense of home.  These folks are known as the “hidden homeless”.

Image from The Guardian

The effects of the cuts to the healthcare budget under the Gordon Campbell Liberal government are also worth noting.  The nutshell;  Cuts were made, facilities were shut down with no provisions for made for the added strain on standard health care provision.  What resulted is an increase in subsidized housing for mental health patients in standard rental complexes, which creates its own unique set of problems, and a whole bunch of people with no place to go and no way to integrate into the work place.

Whats the solution?

Everyone has an opinion, few act on them and so far no one has successfully come up with a plan to attack the problem.  It is a difficult task and one that is fraught with ethical problems.  Shelters are good, safe injection sites are good, education is good, and safe communal sleeping spaces are good but the idea of tackling a seemingly unsolvable problem is daunting.

Image from Woodwynn website

Woodwynn Farm located near Victoria BC has taken an innovative approach to regional homelessness where on site housing is provided for eligible candidates and residents engage in various aspects of farm life, building skill sets and ideally a sense of confidence that facilitates  participation in the regular workplace.  While this project is in danger of being labelled as paternal libertarianism I can understand its ideals and applaud any constructive effort to help people work through the vast array of problems that made them candidates for this program in the first place.  Woodwynn acknowledges that there is no “cure-all” that works for everyone but notes that there have been success stories and that makes it worth the effort.  Sadly, Woodwynn is embattled against its local municipality who seem determined to dismantle the existing camp which would obviously negate any future programs if they are successful.  Kudos are to be given to Woodwynn as they have openly stated that they will not be disassembling the camp any time soon.  Civil disobedience in the face of misguided authority is a beautiful thing.

Check out Woodwynn Farms here:  http://woodwynnfarms.org/

Comments are always welcome

Animal Static


3 Responses to “Homelessness and the Troubles of Moving From NIMBY to YIMBY.”

  1. Love your writing – to the point. Great points here, the fear of not knowing where they are going to rest their head as you stated does not a tremendous amount of stress. The economy here is horrible, families are homeless, it is very sad. I myself have been looking to downsize and had no clue finding a cheaper place or house to rent was so hard to find. There are really no vacancies in cheaper housing. Did not know that the apartments had raised the rent through the roof until started looking at the numbers. Then, the apartments also want first and last months rent.

    Don’t understand how someone who is homeless could come up with so much money just for a simple apartment.

    I would think that the farming idea is a great idea. This would give people a work ethic, to farm the land, a sense of community and a home.

    Perhaps putting trailer park communities on acres of farmland. Where they can produce their own food (healthier anyway) may be an idea.

    This is sad – but here the homeless have moved into all of the camping areas and are living in tents. Problem is they cannot survive the winter, it is way too cold. Having a heater in a tent, isn’t exactly safe.

    I guess giant barracks, like the army builds in Iraq could work for temporary housing, maybe? That is one solution, until the families can get back on their feet.

    Great post, well written. Enjoyed reading.


    • Thanks so much for taking the time to filter through my posts and I am happy that you enjoyed the writing. Many people seem to be supporting the farming idea. This particular farm held an on-site fundraiser over the weekend and actually received a $10,000.00 anonymous donation which is pretty amazing.

      Will repay the blog visit respect very soon.


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    Only the masters enter the challenge: One will win.

    You are invited to enter the dual of writers….

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