Driving out the homeless

bench You know the bus benches with the iron dividers? I’ve always thought it was a nice touch, but it turns out the addition is not aesthetic.

Last week, I listened to a webinar put on by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition as part of their speaker series. The featured speaker was Medicine Hat mayor Ted Clugston, who has managed to end homelessness in his city.

One of the many topics they talked about was the issue of homeless people sleeping on city benches. This is the reason for those dividers at bus stops. It’s to dissuade homeless people from sleeping on them. This fact shocked me.

A few days later, I was driving around with a friend and saw a high fence surrounding the back of an off ramp from the highway. Another way to discourage the homeless from sleeping there. It reminded me of the ad campaign Spring Advertising created for Raincity Housing, which turned benches into shelters.

It got me thinking about how vain our society is. Instead of tackling the issue of homelessness head on, they’re subtly making parts of the city uncomfortable or inaccessible. Build affordable housing instead. Do what Chimo Community Services is doing in Richmond. They’ve aligned with some developers to have homes designated for demolition to be occupied by homeless people in the interim. A safe shelter can go a long way to help someone out of their predicament.

Starting out as a community project, the beautifulemptyhomes.tumblr.com site lists detailed information on empty homes in the Lower Mainland. Find people homes and the rest of their issues can be sorted out. Use their skills to re-animate the unloved homes to something people want to buy.

I’m by no means saying there’s an easy way to end homelessness, but it certainly doesn’t start with spiked benches.



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