Sometimes things happen in a community. You just observe them.
And they don’t really qualify as news, but they can be important and ought to be noted.
Monday night there was a homeless man sleeping, while sitting up, in the brightly lit town hall during the regular meeting of council.
It was quite the irony.
Members of council were reporting on their ministerial meetings at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference, which included discussions on affordable housing, mental illness and addiction.
And this man sat there – dishevelled, with a bag of possessions between his feet – and slept.
(This is not to suggest the man suffered from addiction or was mentally ill, however these are conditions that are sadly often associated with homelessness.)
In a conversation after the meeting he said he had come from Kelowna where he couldn’t afford accommodation. He had already been in touch with Princeton Crisis Assistance, but he had no place to spend the night.
We are in the midst of a very busy election season – with 20 people vying for five spots around the decision-making table.
A number of issues have been already been identified. Do we or do we not build a $27 million swimming pool? Do we or do we not open up the KVR within town limits so that people who own quads and side-by-sides can travel through town?
Affordable housing is being addressed by present councillors and candidates, although within the context of Princeton needing more rental units.
There are council members who have worked closely with Interior Health to facilitate the re-opening of the community’s mental health clubhouse program, formerly known as the Anchorage.
And there are volunteers who run the crisis assistance program and the food bank.
Poverty and homelessness are issues that are too comfortably assigned to provincial and federal arenas.
But what’s that saying? All politics are local.
The timing for this discussion could not be more fortuitous.
There were numerous reports over the summer of people sleeping under Princeton’s Brown Bridge and dossing under the caboose near Subway.
There is a wave of couch surfers out there, each one just an argument away from not having a bed.
Princeton needs a strategy for helping people who have no place to live that extends beyond the vouchers and allowances that the crisis assistance centre is able to provide.
In short, we need a shelter. And taxpayers should foot the bill. Yep.
Chalk it up to the cost of having a home and a job, and consider it an investment in human infrastructure.
Mahatma Ghandi said: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
The same is true of Princeton.
-The Similkameen Spotlight