Emergency solutions needed now

Bill Thomas Special to the News Disasters are occurring right now and our thoughts are with the people in Manitoba and Slave Lake, in support and concern. We know their communities will respond courageously and compassionately.

Bill Thomas

Special to the News

Disasters are occurring right now and our thoughts are with the people in Manitoba and Slave Lake, in support and concern.

We know their communities will respond courageously and compassionately. We have to do the same thing here in Whitehorse regarding housing.

Suppose we had an explosion and massive fire that destroyed many homes and buildings throughout the city.

This would be a disaster. We would have to respond, and Whitehorse citizens would not hesitate to assist friends and families dislocated by the horrible fire.

We would look for, and find facilities that could house people.

At Yukon College, we would not debate how suitable those basement units were for Whitehorse residents, but would find a way to make them habitable for an emergency situation.

The largest property owner in South Downtown maintains a vacancy rate at a level well above zero per cent. That owner could find a way to allow empty units to be used immediately.

Elsewhere, properties, unused or empty for whatever reason, could be made quickly available.

Rezoning the area opposite Robert Service campground to allow for camp overflow could happen now … the disaster is now.

Church, school and shelter facilities could be offered.

We would build some kind of accommodation as quickly as possible on empty land sites. Being creative and responsive, we could devise ways and means to do this – modular units, containers, tent cities.

We would not spend time debating whether this is a disaster. We would not debate whether we have the appropriate regulations and bylaws in place.

No, we would commit our time, resources and our brainpower and act in a responsible and humane way.

That was a disaster scenario. Well, we do have a housing disaster situation here and now.

All levels of income earners are affected by it.

Every type of accommodation is needed, be it emergency and transitional housing, rental units, supportive housing and affordable housing.

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition strongly urges all citizens and organizations to participate and engage in finding solutions to this crisis.

The present situation will not do. Let’s demonstrate our determination and start building our strength of will and capacities to champion a just cause.

This column provided by the Yukon Anti-poverty Coalition. Bill Thomas is chair of the coalition’s housing task force and also sits on the community advisory committee of the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy spearheaded by Health and Social Services.