Those council people and others from the business community who voted against a new temporary shelter where the Aurora tourist company used to be did not necessarily vote against the location, they voted for themselves.
There is a big difference.
Not only did they vote for themselves, they voted for the status quo and the status quo is colonialism.
This just a few days after the first Truth and Reconciliation Day called by the federal government as a day of reflection on our questionable past.
The only thing we learned from this was that we have learned almost nothing.
Hiding a shelter in a location away from the public eye is not going to make the problem go away. In fact, it is only when it is in our collective faces that we will finally understand that there are issues which must be dealt with. The street situation is much like an infected wound that only gets worse with time and every time we refuse to treat it, it gets worse.
And let’s face it, people act in the same way they are treated. When we push them to the background, we are making a statement about our values – not theirs. It is only when we recognize that the behaviors result from intergenerational trauma caused by our colonial past. Then we are supposed to understand it is our responsibility to give the situation the attention it deserves. We don’t quite get that.
Let’s not forget that the women’s shelter was started because someone did die on the streets. She froze. By refusing adequate shelter space anytime., and especially now during a pandemic, is inviting another catastrophe.
One spokesperson from the business community suggested that the Minister of Health and Social Services was in fact using emotional blackmail to get this site approved. She said, if one concern came forward about this location, it could set the approval process back months.
It would seem that if we are ever going to use blackmail as a bargaining tool, this would be a good time. It might, after all, save a life. As was mentioned throughout this public debate, if a site was not found quickly, lives could be put at risk.
Seems like a good time to use some emotional persuasion. The fact is, in these circumstances, if one concern does indeed comes forward, it is required that the project, any project, undergo a review and possible hearing.
A few years ago, under then health minister Glen Abernathy, there was a one hour delay between the time street involved people had to leave the Salvation Army and the time the day shelter opened. For more than an hour they literally had nowhere to go at 40 below. This means that while we were laying in bed enjoying our coffee, others were wandering the streets cold.
Situations such as this continue now during the pandemic and we are responsible for creating them.
The fact is, this wound will not go away until it receives the treatment it needs, like any other illness that we treat everyday in our hospitals and other care facilities. Where those conditions are treated with medication, physiotherapy and regular monitoring, so too does the illness we see on our streets. And it is treatable. We have just failed to provide that. That is a reflection on us – not them.
The high point in the rejection of this proposed space were the people who offered to volunteer their services to help. They offered to pick up litter, do walk around and even offer workshops on site. The transitional housing program at the Arnica Inn is doing wonders with that and so could the shelters. We can all help. There are many with big hearts who want to do that and we need to let them.
After all, healing the downtown dilemma is not just a business problem – it is a community one which will need the participation of all of us to fix. Perhaps if we would have had more people stepping up to help there would not have been the push-back and those on the street would have had more places to stay warm. But we failed. We just went back to what we know.
We blew it – again.