As I read the front page story in the paper, I found myself feeling very conflicted with what was said.
I confess I don’t spend much time downtown, so it is hard for me to speak to the issues that were identified in the article. Still, if I regularly came across needles, human feces, litter and other such things, I too might feel uneasy. And I am sure I would feel unsettled and maybe even afraid if I were to have negative encounters with people who were exhibiting signs of drug use or mental health issues.
These are real concerns, and I am glad that they are being discussed in Vernon because we need answers.
What I was not comfortable with in the Oct. 20 article was the process of othering found there. When we talk about transients in our city, what exactly do we mean?
Think of it this way: when does someone become a Vernonite and how does it happen? Am I citizen of the city when I move here, or must I stay for three months, a year, five years or even 10? Must I own a house, have a job in the city, be born here, or have Vernon family roots? When exactly do I belong and why?
Now I haven’t personally met any of the people that were targeted in this article, but I assume that these transients are Canadians. What’s more, as human beings, they are someone’s siblings, parents, and children. We don’t have to scratch very deeply to see that they are really us. The masking of that fundamental truth is the source of my discomfort with the discussion reported in this story.
The issues surrounding homelessness are complex and the answers will be neither easy nor quick. Still, the challenges that face us can’t be allowed to stop us from asking difficult questions, so we can work through them to find our answers. I hope, though, that when we, as compassionate human beings together build those solutions, we will start with the understanding that all of us, including the transients, are in this together.