Ending homelessness daunting, but it’s the right thing to do

Olympic Vista Senior Housing Worker James Slack doesn’t harbour any illusions when it comes to the “daunting task” of eliminating homelessness in our community. But then, neither does he have any illusions about the moral and social consequences of not striving toward that goal.

Since the seniors’ assisted living facility opened two years ago, James has worked with colleagues and tenants creating a supportive environment, “in a way that we had folks of a similar mind, who wanted to be part of a community.”

“We have put a lot of effort into finding folks that would buy into it, and also our staff, who have put a lot of effort into creating an environment which is very social, very positive, encouraging and respectful.” he said.

Ask him why – why does it make sense to invest in facilities that get people off the street, providing them with safe secure places where they can stabilize and get some help establishing healthy lifestyles – and he touches on two themes: moral and social responsibility.

“First and foremost, living in the country that we live in, we’ve got some moral responsibility to folks to keep them at a reasonable standard of life,” he said. “When you get to know who these people are, you realize that they are very similar to anybody else… any one of us can have these issues at any point in our lives.

“Once you hear the stories, and find out where they’re at, you realize that, frankly, they have the same goals and desires that we do, and for some reason along the way they have fallen by the wayside.”

Then there’s the bottom line rationale: Socially, it makes more sense to provide a basic standard of living to those who find themselves destitute and homeless than to leave them to fend for themselves.

“It’s a lot more expensive if you have to take someone through the health care system than to have housing so they can take care of themselves,” James said.

Any way you look at it, facilities like Olympic Vista make sense, and the goal of eliminating homelessness in Victoria stands to reason. “I think we can certainly strive for that goal, absolutely, and if we don’t strive for that goal, we are not doing ourselves a service.

“To be successful and effective, I think we need to keep our eyes open and we need to learn new things, and we need to keep striving to make it better, and I think at this point in time, Cool Aid has done a pretty good job.”