During the winter holidays, as we lay cozily on our couches wrapped in soft blankets with hot mugs of cocoa in our hands, take a moment to appreciate our families and our good fortune.
Unfortunately, for more than 200,000 Canadians who experience homelessness in any given year, the 3,605 people in Metro Vancouver, and 124 folks in Maple Ridge, that scenario would only be a daydream, according to figures from the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association and M. Thomson Consulting.
Homelessness is a prevalent issue in Canada. During an outing with friends this past weekend in Metro Vancouver, I was disturbed by the sheer number of homeless individuals sprawled out on the streets, relying on the generosity of strangers to survive. The evening went by and I thought nothing of it, giving only to one individual who I thought desperately needed it.
By nature of homelessness, the lack of a secure permanent residence and employment makes it difficult for those in the homeless community to escape the cycle of poverty. Their position provokes discrimination.
During my trip, people walked past others in need without batting an eye. Yet, it is exactly this mentality that forces these people to remain where they are since employers tend not to trust or hire people without an established place of residence.
I find it curious that people’s generosity surfaces around the time of the holidays, when many feel compelled to give out of the kindness of their hearts.
Although this does mitigate the problem of homelessness, it does not, unfortunately, solve the issue. Real generosity comes from a genuine sense of support for their community, rather than driving the homeless away and relocating them in another area.
The best gift of the season would be to help them establish a safe, secure shelter, where they can access addiction and job-seeking services so that they can work to improve their condition.
The homeless are people, too, and it is crucial that we treat them as such. Whenever our friends are in need, we support them. So why not the homeless?
Many of our conventional solutions, such as giving money, is only temporary. But if we can provide a more lasting solution, then that would move us closer to resolving this communal hindrance.
After returning home that night, I took a moment to reflect on the situation. It’s a tragedy that so many Canadians are discriminated against, neglected, forgotten, and without shelter in a place where they should be calling home.
I realize that the single donation I gave would not act as a permanent solution, but as a temporary relief to a problem that needs to be addressed and noticed by a broader population for longer than a Salvation Army Santa waves a bell for charity.
This would not be difficult.
Those such as Ivan Drury, of Alliance Against Displacement in Maple Ridge, are supporting the homeless community, by defending the homeless camp Anita’s Place, and actively seeking to find a permanent solution to a more suitable location.
If we dislike the idea of homelessness, then let’s actively work to solve the issue even beyond the season.
David Wang is a student at Garibaldi secondary.