This week, the UN rapporteur on housing Leilani Farha gave a global perspective on the housing crisis in her article Housing is a human rights issue – and 2018 must be the year to address it
She describes “rights-based housing strategies” and how these “must transform how governments, at all levels, interact with those who are homeless and inadequately housed. Instead of viewing them as needy beneficiaries, objects of charity, or, worse, as criminals, they must instead recognize that people who are homeless also have rights – and are active citizens who should be involved in decisions affecting their lives.”
Today, an article in the Times Colonist illustrates the ways that our local government can carry the attitudes that Leilani Farha refers to:
“Coun. Geoff Young said camping in parks is having such an enormous impact that some people now view living near a park to be a disadvantage. ‘People used to like living above a park,’ he said. ‘Now, you live above a park and you’re likely to get violent, profane screaming fights in the middle of the night under your window. You’re likely to have people coming and plugging into your outdoor plugs or using your water tap. And people who want to use the parks early in the morning, may find they are essentially occupied and turned into campgrounds…we need to have, as an objective, the creation of enough shelter spaces that we can send the message out loud and clear: ‘You are never ever allowed to camp in any City of Victoria park, period, because we will always have a shelter mat for you,’ ” he said.
Shelter mats will not solve the issue of encampments in parks because shelter mats are not housing. A shelter mat does not allow a person to improve their health, complicates rather than simplifies day to day functioning, and does not provide space for socializing, safety, or comfort. Shelter mats are the opposite of rights-based housing.