Letter: Homelessness column set an angry tone

Editor: Re: Getting Past the Homeless Rhetoric (the Times, Oct. 18)

Tom Fletcher’s rather mean-spirited column tries to pose angry people who oppose support for homeless people (or who resent the presence of homeless people period) as real community members simply trying to protect their neighbourhoods.

Well, this might be news for Mr. Fletcher, but homeless people are part of our communities and residents of our neighbourhoods. Fletcher’s false narrative would seek to set up a division between supposedly legitimate community members (i.e. property owners) and illegitimate ones (i.e. homeless people). Or to suggest that, actually, homeless people are somehow not part of our communities after all. He even feels the need to distinguish between “genuine” wounds and illnesses as if it is his right to decide.

Fletcher also dishonestly tries to suggest that community support for homeless people can be reduced to a supposed “professional tent-city stage manager” like Ivan Drury and a “tent city queen” (itself an offensive designation) and “a guy.”

As tireless as Mr. Drury might be as an activist, he is only one part of a much larger movement supporting homeless people and that movement has a broader community base of support.

Fletcher here seeks to downplay the efforts of compassionate community members to justify his support for the angry. And why, on the other hand, do anti-poverty activists get condemned when they express anger over social injustice anyway?

The angry often pose as concern for neighbourhood what is really prejudice toward homeless people. Concern for our neighbourhoods should extend to concern for our neighbours, who might well be homeless. Or is it really only about concern for property after all?

In the end Fletcher does not get past the homeless rhetoric, he only adds to it. He offers no real solutions, only a rant —yes, an angry one— against homeless people that tries to suggest that they are all drug users or criminals, or welfare cheats.

All familiar words used to knock our homeless neighbours. Do we speak in the same way about our housed neighbours using drugs, committing crime, etc., because some do? While these accusations might help justify expanded police budgets to regulate homeless people it is really unhelpful and inaccurate. Yet it serves to stoke the fires of the angry even further.

Dr. Jeff Shantz

Department of Criminology

Kwantlen Polytechnic University

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