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Out of sight...

The Tyee reported this week that thanks to a challenge on the constitutionality of refusing individuals a place to sleep, the B.C.

The Tyee reported this week that thanks to a challenge on the constitutionality of refusing individuals a place to sleep, the B.C. Supreme Court may be poised to decide that setting up tents on public property in Victoria is acceptable for the homeless. This would have sweeping implications for the rest of the province.This decision would also undoubtedly cause heavy chagrin to president of local arts group Visuals, Wanda Doyle, who last week wrote the District of Squamish to demand they do something to remove homeless locals from the Pavilion, situated right next to the Visuals gallery. Doyle is in the unenviable position of attempting to encourage visitors to the gallery while groups of people act rowdy under the shelter of the Pavilion. The situation, as she rightly points out, is complex. But chastising members of the public for sympathizing with the homeless "plight," comes across as heartless. "Feeding and allowing them the freedom to do as they please in a public venue only reinforces their desire to stay put," she writes.This statement screams for a response of indignation. Why should homeless individuals not have the same freedoms as more affluent individuals? It hints at the sense of removal that probably a large proportion of the community feels toward these individuals. And it fits in with the banal argument being put before the B.C. Supreme Court that people who set up tents in public parks do so voluntarily - not because they have nowhere else to go, never that! So they don't deserve the right to shelter themselves while sleeping in public places.And the assertion that some of the Pavilion dwellers are breaking laws shouldn't influence all homeless people's right to shelter. Individuals break laws in their homes as well, and here too, the police should intrude. If laws are being broken, call the police. But, as is coming to light in Lower Mainland news reports, police are ill-equipped to deal with the mental health crisis on our streets. And there's the rub. Arguments stating there are services for these people, and they shouldn't have to set up homes in the park fall flat. The fact is there aren't enough services to support the homeless, neither here in Squamish nor in the rest of the province. The provincial government's decision to cut funding to shelters, women's centres, mental health and addictions services, along with the shutting down of residential facilities for mental health patients has created a crisis in homelessness. B.C. Liberal representatives will tell you the province has pumped truckloads of money into social services, and this may be, but the massive cutbacks over the years obviously still resonate.Moving the homeless along is not the answer. Pressuring the province to put money back into mental health and addictions services and toward the impoverished is the only way to get rid of the "eyesores" seen throughout British Columbia.

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