Homelessness exists because we choose it

Brendon J. Wilson writes that housing the homeless is “a handout” that “insults the rest of the hard-working population” [Letters, October 15-22].

On the contrary, it’s precisely because I work hard that I want a public solution for homelessness. That is, I work hard to pay taxes and want my values reflected in policy. It’s deeply embarrassing to live in a country where the majority seems to think it’s just fine if some of their fellow citizens freeze to death on city streets. What I find insulting is having my money used for military combat missions, convention centres, and other useless crap, rather than for building an equitable society.

In more civilized countries, there isn’t homelessness such as there is in Canada—if at all—and that has nothing to do with how hard people work. Rather, it’s a reflection of choices made at the polls.

> Patrik Parkes / Vancouver


Regarding Brendon Wilson’s letter to the Straight in which he states: “I think it’s unrealistic to expect nobody to be homeless”—what a disgusting attitude.

If you look at this from the point of view of a religious person, and if you believe that this mundane life is just a test before we move to the next stage, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Wilson has failed the test. If you look at this from the point of view of a secular person, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Wilson has not mastered the basic concepts of being a civilized human being.

Homelessness exists in a society if that society decides to permit it. Any society that decides that homelessness is unacceptable can ensure that no one is homeless. It is that simple.

Mr. Wilson further states: “I don’t have a solution to this problem and”¦I’m not sure one exists.” A truly ignorant person might actually believe this, but it’s well known that Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy. There’s your answer. It’s not rocket science.

> Victor Finberg / Burnaby




Oct 22, 2009 at 7:19am

I live in the Downtown Eastside. The fundamental challenge to solving homelessness is that some people are not suited for unsupervised housing. Some sufferers of mental illness, and those that simply have unacceptable behavioral issues require close supervision. I have seen the destruction that some erstwhile homeless have wreaked upon the housing provided to them. They quickly aren't welcome anywhere.

A significant change needs to occur, and I can't see any politicians getting this done anytime soon. Taxes for appropriate supervised care are death to platforms. Even if it did happen, we can't violate their rights by forcing people into housing.

I wish that we had a charter of duties in addition to rights. If one could not fulfill one's duties as an adult, functioning member of society then one would become a ward of the state. Just as an adult cares for a child, so then would the state provide for the individual.

Food, shelter, education and training would be provided in supervised fashion until the person could demonstrate the duties expected by society.

It would work; however, the cries of trampled rights and fascism would scare away anyone politically sensitive.

Is there a solution? Yes.


Oct 22, 2009 at 6:32pm

I completely agree with both Patrick and Victor. We are more than capable of erradicating poverty. I would rather see my hard earned tax dollars go to help those in need and to social programs than to fund concrete office buildings, war, the olympic village, olympics or any other empty technocratic sites, plans and ideas. We have to clean up our act here on Earth. We are forgetting about these people who are really a reflection of us and proof that somewhere we have gone off track. These people suffer at the hands of a society which could make any one of us homless at anytime if we only make one wrong choice. How many people are enslaved to debt? So, if anyone of us were to lose our job we could just as easily end up on the streets. We need to step back and not be so afraid of eachother and seek what is common in us all, we are all in this together. As a race if we continue to trample over one another we are all doomed to perish. We need to send our politicians to places where anti poverty plans work, we need to learn what others do and implement their plans and strategies. In 2010 at the Olympics the issue of poverty will stand out and show beautiful Canada and the ugly truth we hide, it is truly embarrassing. To further punish these people by writing them tickets for sitting on the street shows pure ignorance in the person who thought of this plan. The selfishness is truly disgusting it is time for change. Back to nature back to reality back to sanity!


Oct 23, 2009 at 7:45pm

I would have liked to see the original full post/letter - it looks like there's more to it. But typical Georgia Straight - go for the controversy and not tell the whole story.

What are the countries that do not have homelessness? Even Sweden, the poster child of social programs, has homelessness.

@Burnsian - I would rather see money go to mental healthcare, which all of what you suggest would fall under, to help solve the problems. But the government keeps cutting it of course.

Having talked with homeless people - a lot wind up back on the street because they cannot handle the pressures of daily life and work. Something as simple as remembering how to take an order properly at a coffee shop can be rather stressful. Its a very long road to get to a place where they can handle those pressures. If they're in a social system, for many, they essentially feel like they have become a prisoner of the system if they do not graduate out of it, so instead they leave it and go back to the streets where they feel they have control over their own life.

I'd like to see comments from people who work on a daily basis with homeless people who have mental conditions and what they see as possible solutions.

Brendon J. Wilson

Oct 24, 2009 at 5:49pm

LisaS hits two nails on the head with one blow.

I also find it intriguing that the Straight found it appropriate to print two responses disagreeing with my comment on the "Vancouver's Homeless Demand Solutions" story, yet didn't see fit to print my original comment itself. As I recall, quoting responses without context is poor journalist form. Nevertheless, despite that oversight, I think it worthwhile to respond to these comments, and have done so at:


Steven Merchant

Oct 25, 2009 at 6:02pm

The Victor Finberg letter is naive to the extreme. It's one thing to make sweeping statements regarding homelessness from "religious" or "atheistic" perspectives, but it's an entirely different game to try to examine and solve the economics of the problem. As long as private property rights are guaranteed, it's probably impossible to eradicate homelessness.

This isn't to say there isn't a solution, it's just unlikely to ever happen in Canada. Following the Soviet Revolution in 1917, the newly-established government successfully re-distributed resources and land to ensure that every citizen had a home -- a situation which lasted until World War I.

The truth is that even the most radical organized elements of our political spectrum are unlikely to ever propose such a system for the simple fact that unless they were guaranteed a corresponding exemption from common rule (as the Soviet leadership themselves did), almost no one from our middle, upper, and even lower-middle classes would willfully contract their personal wealth.

And I'm not talking about a 20% increase in taxes, or 50% pay cut. I'm talking about a system where you now share your living space with 5-10 additional people and you can only drive your car on even days of the week. And you are rationed either a laptop or a TV, but you can't have both, and can only use power outlets for 6 hours a day.

Sustaining the homelessness is certainly a noble idea, but the real tragedy is that in the end, we just aren't willing to make the requisite sacrifices do it. Having a "national housing strategy" might sound like a good idea, but it's probably about as effective as having a "national counter-drug policy".


Jul 7, 2015 at 3:48am

There is no deterrent for people not to be homeless here. They are allowed to camp in public parks, ride transit for free, and avoid any type of fines at all! They are allowed to sit on street corners and walk along traffic intersections, asking and begging others for money! Most of them like to live this kind of lifestyle, no rules, laws or responsibilities in life......and most of them are without social skills, manners, or dignity!!