Tuesday, January 23, 2007


That's my acronym for the opposite of Not In My Back Yard. It's acknowledging that the problem is Right Here.

The local branch of our public library provided the space for a panel discussion on homelessness. The presenters, Judy Villeneuve, Sue Hammell, and Susan Keeping had plenty to say. Still each of them honoured the 5-minute time limit and kept their presentations brief.

Longtime city councillor Villeneuve offered the most in the way of stats and facts. MLA Sue Hammell referred to a number of interesting models for providing low-cost shelter, including the Portland Hotel Society. Susan Keeping, head of the Newton Advocacy Group and the presenter most involved in fieldwork, put a very human face on many of the problems, offering mainly anecdotal information.

Questions from the floor covered a huge range of topics, from rent controls to the need for public toilets. At one point I noticed one of our most well-known local homeless men peering in at the door. All I can imagine is that the size of the crowd must have frightened him way.

While it does sound as though the 'tanker may be turning' and that some important new initiatives are in the works (in particular, an Affordable Housing Trust in Surrey), I think all of us left with feelings of how fortunate we are, and also maybe some shame over how well we live.

I remembered a slogan a group of us made up in high school when we were members of what was then called a 'Christian action group' -- "I was hungry, and you formed a discussion group for me." I hope we are finally able to do more than just talk.

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