Homelessness and affordable housing are never far from the top of the societal agenda.
In the recent federal election affordability and cost of living was the third top issue identified by voters. In the past week, this newspaper alone has had three stories about various aspects of the topic locally.
There are numerous organizations in the area striving to find solutions with support from various levels of government.
Goodacre Place, a beautiful new facility offering long-term supportive housing opened this year, quickly achieved full capacity, and now has a long waiting list.
As a result of the Province shifting resources to this project, we lost the emergency shelter, which is an issue that needs to be addressed. The Northern Society for Domestic Peace operates a shelter for women and children fleeing abuse and is working on a new second-stage housing development.
Witset is building a new apartment building and the Dik Tiy Housing Society is continuing its efforts to bring another affordable housing development to Smithers.
But even as we grapple with all of this, as a community we must be cognizant there will always be people for whom none of these solutions work. Either by circumstance or choice, alternative lifestyles will always be present within our communities.
Similarly, there will always be people for whom the very existence of people exercising their right to live as they choose, or are able, causes discomfort. Whether it is out of fear (which is not always entirely unfounded) or guilt (also not always entirely unfounded) homelessness raises scorn, resentment and intolerance.
We must make every effort to address what is legitimately a problem, but we must also be wary of imposing solutions on people.
Everyone has the right to live as they see fit and we can’t force people into particular living situations against their wills.
And we can’t prevent people from living on the land. As long as they are not harming anyone—and no, their presence alone does not constitute harm—it is nobody else’s business.
There are numerous proverbs that might apply here.
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
The bottom line is the minimum standard for all of us in dealing with our fellow humans should be graciousness.