Pubdate: Thu, 28 Oct 2010
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Peter Richmond
Author: Peter Richmond


To the Editor,

I recently had the dubious pleasure of attending the Hospital Area
Neighbourhood Association's meeting on the proposed
homeless/low-income wet housing being put on Townsite Road.

For those that don't know, 'wet housing' is designed for those with
possible issues surrounding addiction. It basically means that users
can live in the unit without fear of eviction or legal complication,
so long as they keep their drug/alcohol use in their room.

This is not a shelter; residents are long-term and expected to pay
rent, and to interact with their neighbourhood in a productive manner.
Failure to do so results in eviction, just like in any other housing
arrangement. The only differences being that drug users won't be
evicted or arrested for using in their room, nor will they be required
to be sober in order to get housing, a barrier for many of our most

At the meeting, there was a lot of fear. Our neighbours voiced concern
about personal safety, property damage and proximity to schools. I was
part of an unwelcome minority who came out in support of the project.

I understand my neighbours' concerns.

Dirty needles in our public places are a health risk, and having drug
users high on our streets, in our parks and on our beaches can be a
legitimate safety concern. But the problem is already here.

Wet housing brings it into the open and that can be frightening; but
it will also make it more manageable. What I'm excited about is how
this project will make our homes, and our city, safer.

Affordable wet housing and the harm-reduction services that come with
them help solve many of Nanaimo's existing issues.

Exchange programs like AIDS Vancouver Island's needle exchange keep
used drug paraphernalia off our streets, and users who don't have to
worry about eviction or homelessness are more likely to stay home.

It also helps to make existing situations better. A place to live,
running water, heat - all of these are essential in making otherwise
desperate individuals less likely to take risks or engage in dangerous

We have to remember that we are dealing with people first, no
different than you and I. We all need food, and shelter, and hope;
when these things are threatened, we all do whatever we can to survive.

A wet housing facility opens doors for those of us who most need them:
doors to health services, to employment and perhaps even to sobriety.
It gives the most desperate a way back to the staples of what you and
I are blessed to call a normal life, and a way to lower their risks
along that path.

We can fight this project and maybe if enough community groups say no,
it will never get built. Or we can recognize that maybe next to the
hospital is the best place for it. We can help make life safer for our
most vulnerable neighbours, and thus for all of us.

Peter Richmond

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