The results of Vernon’s latest homeless survey aren’t a complete surprise, but they don’t paint a complete picture.
While some individuals are living outdoors in parks or alleys, others are surfing from couch to couch or living in structures that may not meet health and safety codes.
A common perception is that people are homeless because they are lazy or addicted to drugs. Yes, there may be some of that, but one also has to understand that addiction is all-consuming and until treatment occurs, activities like finding work are challenging.
Others are holding down jobs but the growing reality of the minimum wage economy means there aren’t sufficient resources to pay rent, eat and fuel a vehicle, which may be necessary to keep a job.
Government policies also directly impact individuals’ ability to afford housing — inadequate disability pensions, insufficient mental health programs and reducing transit pensions for the disabled.
The root causes of homelessness are complex but we as a community need to rise to the challenge.
We need to demand that government at all levels takes every step possible to ensure everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home. Businesses need to understand that it’s easier to retain and attract employees who aren’t worrying about where they live.
And for the rest of us, we need to not only lobby the powers-that-be, but we need to reach out to our neighbours who are struggling.
A friendly smile and compassion can go a long ways during difficult times.