Letter: Banning the homeless sweeps real people away

There is tremendous opportunity in Kelowna to change the frame of homelessness.

To the editor:

I am writing in response to a May 2 letter in the Capital News: Solution: Ban the Homeless, here in Kelowna.

There is tremendous opportunity in Kelowna as a cultural city to change the frame of homelessness. Kelowna is a growing community aiming to hold its standards high, but the lack of compassion amidst citizens is a contagious one.

Where does banning homeless people leave us? Sitting in a nearsighted, diluted sense of security, where there is no compassion for our fellow human beings? Or in an age of apathy unaware of its own shortcomings?

Neither sounds too good to me.

But before you find me grim, I must reiterate Kelowna’s cultural heritage, rather cultural precedent as the main source of our uniqueness when approaching this issue. A place where snowboarders rock the hill every winter, good music cuts into the downtown district year round, artists exist in every medium, and come summer time everyone is saying gimme some more of that summer.

Our citizens work hard and play even harder. Amidst this awesomeness I sense a divide, and I have got to confide.

Recently, I started working in the cultural district of Kelowna. I have seen the best of everything artistic, from live music, beautiful Broadway style shows and flamenco dancers to knock your socks off.

I have also been witness to the issues ignored by society. The people left behind, the homeless, the ones without warmth or security at night. The ones looked at without reason, only judgement, seen as multiplying since 1989 in Kelowna.

That’s like saying TV ratings are up! Guess what, population grows, and with that so do our unresolved issues.

I’m turning away from disparity and towards unity. We all bleed red and homeless people need compassion, not hatred, help, not fear, and a place to call home not a stop off station that will soon become known as Kelowna.

Don’t forget, that some of the worst people in this wide world in which we reside do indeed have roofs over their heads, rendering any judgement upon those on the streets as irrelevant. A judgement which does nothing, besides providing peace of mind for a select few who quite literally won’t be here in the next millennium.

A large proportion of people on the streets suffer from mental illness, and are far more scared than they may let on. A more feasible solution to this issue is to create a community for the homeless, one of peace where rules and standards help them shape up rather than ship out. It is already beginning at the federal level and with a homelessness partnering strategy. Kelowna can keep its legacy of clean streets without the tarnishing element of banishment at the feet of those most in need.

I am only 24 years old. I have my walls up—I don’t let people in—but surely there needs to be a voice of compassion for the homeless. Funding for developments can be garnered at the international level, and any good Samaritan mustn’t feel obliged to give someone the change in their pocket but rather, feel inclined to eradicate the negative stereotype and connotation of what it means to be homeless.

Show your compassion and I bet you may find, as academic studies have defined, your own act of compassion will bolster your happiness as well as your own subjective well being.

Help keep Kelowna awesome.

Graeme Merriman,