Social issues require social solutions. In Jacqueline Ronson’s Friday article, “Chamber pushes for trespass act,” Rick Karp of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce refers to “these social issues” and “social problems” repeatedly. However, the chamber’s pushing for a trespass act to further marginalize an already incredibly strained segment of the community seems, to me, decidedly anti-social.
The symptoms, in these cases, are too often confused with the problems – addiction and homelessness are symptoms of much more complex and harrowing social maladies than having an unpleasant encounter while shopping, or having to clean up broken glass and cigarette butts.
The real solutions will be easier to find when we start asking the real questions: Are there prejudices at play in the cultural climate surrounding this issue? What percentage of the people in Whitehorse living with addictions and without adequate housing are also struggling with mental health issues? Have we, as a society, taken the proper efforts and put forward realistic funding to house the hard-to-house? There are a few questions we need to be asking and answering.
Well-established models of social housing exist in other communities (Cool Aid in Victoria and Rain City in Vancouver are two excellent examples). The “housing first” model is being implemented in cities around Canada as a proven evidence-based model that will deliver better results for those in need.
And the federal government is funding these projects to the tune of $120 million dollars annually – our municipal and territorial governments should be looking at these examples right now and working with local groups like the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition to get things rolling. The financial costs of such facilities to build, maintain and staff (and we have been told that the money’s there!) are far less in the long-term than we are currently spending on “Band Aids” like policing, paramedics, hospital care, courts and corrections; not to mention legislating amendments to trespass laws.
We need places where the community as a whole can become more comfortable, compassionate and connected; places where “social problems” can be properly diagnosed, treated and cured, rather than ignored or incarcerated.