photos: Stock photo.

Winter is coming—are we ready?

Director’s Corner: The need to build toward long-term housing solutions is felt most acutely during these freezing months

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As winter rolls in on the west coast, 2,000 units of temporary modular housing are being rolled out across B.C. and seasonal winter shelters are opening a month earlier than last year in Vancouver.

Though homelessness is harmful year round, the bite of cold in the air lends urgency to the homelessness crisis.

So it’s heartening to see municipalities and the province taking immediate action to get folks housed and in from the cold.

But temporary housing can’t be enough.

Everyday residents need to support these temporary measures and keep the pressure on for long-term solutions.

That need is echoed in Victoria, where in October the Burnside Gorge Community Association asked the province for a moratorium on shelters and supportive housing in the neighbourhood.

This could shut down two much-needed proposed projects: the Tally Ho Motel and former Super 8 Motel, both on Douglas Street and operated by Victoria Cool Aid Society and Portland Hotel Society, respectively.

Victoria has struggled with disproportionately high numbers of people homeless in the region: February 2016’s homeless count found 1,387 people homeless: 192 unsheltered, 353 in emergency shelters, and 842 in provisional accommodation (including hospitals, transitional housing, and detox).

Add to that a report from the city this year that showed tenting in parks is on the rise: the report counted 302 tents in city parks this April compared with 225 in summer 2016. Victoria needs this housing.

In a climate where the provincial government seems more open to funding housing and homelessness response, residents need to say not just, “Yes, in my backyard,” but rather, “More in my backyard, please!”

Both shelters and affordable housing need our vocal support right now. But we need to think big. We must never settle for shelters over homes. These projects are necessary, short-term emergency help, but they must not take the place of building toward long-term solutions.

British Columbia needs long-term welfare-rate housing to house all homeless in the next five to 10 years.

Aiming for anything less would be a disservice to our homeless neighbours.

Megaphone’s winter fundraiser
This month marks the launch of Megaphone’s winter fundraising campaign, and if you’re reading this, I’m asking for your support. Megaphone’s work—everything from the magazine you’re reading to the toque your vendor wears—is made possible by hundreds of small donations by people like you.

Megaphone is a survival strategy for people experiencing poverty, and it’s also a vehicle for us to build collective power to make meaningful change.

When you donate to Megaphone you support our vendors to build skills, make connections, and earn money. You also support them in their work as ambassadors, advancing the public conversation around poverty and homelessness, and building grassroots support to end poverty.

We’ve got big plans for 2018. And we need your help to make them a reality.

Please consider making a donation to Megaphone to help us reach our goal of $25,000 by December 31.

We’re all in this together, and we need your help to make change.

Donate online at megaphonemagazine.com/donate or by mail using the prepaid envelope on page 16.

 

Jessica Hannon is the executive director of Megaphone.

Get on your megaphone

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