People need to earn their way back into housing.
When we talk about holding people accountable, we may assume that they've had the same chances that we have all had, but done less with them. We assume their parents packed them lunch for school and helped them do their homework. We may assume a lot of things, but we can be way off base. Most people who become homeless come from backgrounds of systemic abuse and neglect. Statistics in America reveal that the odds of someone in the general population becoming homeless is 1 in 194, whereas those same odds for kids coming out of foster care are 1 in 11.
Homeless people are dangerous.
Homeless people are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than to commit those crimes themselves. People without housing are vulnerable and lack the safety that a home provides. While it is true that homeless people often have lengthy arrest records, they are most often arrested for non- violent crimes associated with not having a home, like trespassing or panhandling.
Homeless people come to Vancouver Island because they have heard about our social services.
Most people stay in the community where they first became homeless. According to data, only 25% of the homeless population is transient. The majority of people accessing homeless services in Nanaimo are from this area originally.
The greatest misconception about homelessness is that the people who experience it somehow deserve it, should be defined by it, and are less valuable because of it. In reality, homeless people are more often victims of trauma.
They have a right to be defined by who they are rather than by their housing status, and are equally as human and equally as valuable as those of us who have homes of our own.
Our first step as a society to end this tragic problem must be a fundamental recognition of the humanity we all share, regardless of where we sleep each night. Unitarians, being a pretty progressive bunch, generally have these core concepts figured out, as demonstrated by the inherent worth and dignity of every person as one of cornerstones of the Unitarian principles.
Opening our doors to those in need in our community and treating them with respect and kindness seems like such a wonderful way to walk that talk.
Unitarian Shelter Advisory Committee, published in the Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo newsletter.