By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on December 11, 2020.
We need to reframe the conversation about supportive housing in this city.
It is the solution to the problem of homelessness and vagrancy, not the source of the problem. Somehow in recent debates about The Mustard Seed’s proposal to rezone the Ramada Hotel into a permanent supportive housing facility that fact has become muddled or shouted over by those simply saying, “Not in my back yard.”
What permanent supportive housing does is take those currently living on the street, or those living in our downtown parks, for example, and provides a place for them to go so they no longer have to live as vagrants in the community.
In these facilities those in recovery from long-term drug addiction, facing dire poverty which leaves them unable to advance in society, or suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other long-term mental health or physical health issues will have a place to live where they can get the supports they need so they can, and this is the point here, stay off the streets and stop adding to the social disorder we currently face in our city.
People in Lethbridge continually state they feel unsafe, they don’t like crime and they don’t like vagrancy in the downtown or other areas of the city. The only solution to the problem is to get these people into housing which is able to support them as they seek a better life for themselves in our community.
While the location of such facilities is certainly up for debate, it is almost guaranteed wherever they open up someone will be unhappy. There is no place in the city that is not adjacent to a residential neighbourhood or near a school, church or other business. And there are no locations which can support this population’s needs outside of the city.
A hotel already located on a busy commercial strip in a high-density area which already supports a transient population most would agree is a far better option than a large residential building in the midst of a quiet local neighbourhood. But if that option is not even on the table there is nowhere these types of facilities could be established in the community – despite their ultimate benefit in helping to reduce vagrancy, crime and social disorder in Lethbridge.
Permanent supportive housing is not the source of the social disorder in our city, it is the solution to that social disorder which has already gone on for far too long.
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