[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was a beautiful day. The rare Vancouver sun was shining and I was merrily on my way to Harbour Center via the 135. Enjoying the day to its fullest was on the agenda, despite the responsibilities of school. As I neared downtown, I couldn’t help but notice that even the people who had made the streets their home seemed to have a certain pep.
Then it occurred to me that in my seven short months of living here, I had completely grown accustomed to this relegated group being a permanent fixture on the streets of Vancouver.
Why had I allowed the homeless crisis that had initially shocked me to my core to become a complacent everyday background scene? Better yet, why has the entirety of Vancouver done the same thing?
With the closure of Riverview mental hospital in 2012, the resources available to help the mentally ill became scarce. “[M]ore than half of Vancouver’s homeless [. . .] suffer from schizophrenia” according to a study conducted in 2010.
Statistics Canada found that the “2015 count results show that Vancouver’s homeless are in poorer health today than 2005.” These are people who are sick and in need of assistance, who deserve help as much as anyone with any other sort of health condition. So why does Vancouver shamelessly sweep the issue under the rug and continually corral them to less desirable neighbourhoods? Homeless people sleeping in public places are asked to leave just because they’re homeless, homeless protest camps are evicted, last year it was confirmed that BC Housing no longer collects data on the thousands turned away from shelters.
Anyone buy property should pay a yearly fee that goes directly to those on the streets.
Carin Rahmberg, childcare and family coordinator, recently said to me, “welfare for one person per month is $608. This is hardly enough to pay for rent, let alone utilities or food.” After working directly with these families who are in need of assistance, Rahmberg argued that if Vancouver provided the appropriate resources for those in need, the city would save money in the long term.
Housing is becoming less and less affordable to locals, as international entities with large purchasing power drive up prices. Although racist undertones implicate this, which I have absolutely no desire to perpetuate, it is a contemporary issue that could offer a solution with the help of government policy.
I argue that wealthy internationals who have the means to purchase property in this desirable city should be taxed. The conditions that should apply to buying property here is to pay a yearly fee that goes directly to the treatment, rehabilitation, or long term care to those who have been left forgotten on the streets.
It should be mandatory that buyers contribute to the community they invest in. This will, in turn, shy some investors away or merely be a minor inconvenience for others. The luxury of owning real estate from afar should come with consequences.
I want Vancouver to stop pretending there isn’t a problem. I want this city to have some pride in itself, take responsibility and offer a real solution to homelessness. While I risk sounding extreme with my ‘socialist’ solution, I challenge you to ask yourself why this sounds like an extreme solution. Housing should be a right in our free nation.
I love Vancouver, and every day I am ecstatic that I made living here a reality, but the way Vancouver shuns the homeless is utterly disgraceful. It’s time we did the right thing and stop viewing this issue as a perpetual and inevitable problem. So I’m demanding this: Vancouver, show the world where your values are — with people, not money.