Opinion

COLUMN: Burnaby's silence on homeless issue deafening

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So I wrote this column last month.

About homelessness, I guess.

Well really, it was about Burnaby, and the fact there is nowhere in this city for a homeless person to go and have a bed at night. Except during the few freezing nights a year, that is, when a church opens its doors and the Lookout Emergency Society pitches in.

My column questioned Mayor Derek Corrigan’s steadfast policy that a permanent shelter in Burnaby must be bought and supported by the province or Ottawa. I said maybe it’s time that Burnaby dropped this line and rather, fell into line with most cities (large and small) in the region and put up a piece of land for a shelter.

A one-time pittance, relatively speaking, perhaps a couple of million dollars, for a city with a reserve fund in the $600-million ballpark. Or put up a piece of land from the city’s massive land bank. Meantime, the province would cover operating costs. And as we know, “operating” is another word for “forever.”

It’s not like the province wouldn’t be pitching in.

So like I said, I put this out there. The city needs a permanent shelter. Not in a single-family neighbourhood, of course. Somewhere close to transit. Vancouver has dozens, New West has a few, even Maple Ridge, Langley and the TriCities have them.

I even gave Corrigan a fair shake, repeating his long-standing argument that housing is not a city’s job… Senior governments need to step up… it’s a slippery slope—Burnaby must take a stand for fiscal responsibility.

Etcetera.

So if you can imagine it, my column is written, it goes in our paper, gets dropped off at 46,000 homes or so. It goes on the Internet, and I go on to the usual social media to make sure all the folks out there get to read it. I ask prompting questions. You know: “Hey Burnaby! There is no shelter in this city! Does this sit right with you?!” Or: “Is it OK that homeless people in this city have to shape up or ship out?”

I really pushed it, you know?

And what I heard in response was this:

…..

That’s text language for S.B.A. Sweet bugger all. Not a peep, not a word. Not a letter to the editor, not a phone call, and only a couple of re-tweets on Twitter.

And one of those re-tweets was by the editor of the Georgia Straight, and everyone knows that left-wing rag is full of bleeding hearts anyway.

But isn’t Corrigan a lefty? (Oh let’s not go down that tiresome left-wing/right-wing, trade union/capitalist mumbo jumbo.)

Suffice to say the mayor is NDP. And the NDP controls most of the politics in this city.

And this isn’t a column with aims to slam Corrigan as a mayor, because it seems he does a good job.

And I don’t aim to slam NDP rule at City Hall, because again, it’s been hard to find much to complain about.

But what I’d like to do is highlight three things.

One, Corrigan is wrong in continued stubborn insistence upon failing to kick in some land for a permanent shelter.

Two, I’m surprised he hasn’t responded to my column with a Letter to the Editor.

And Three, I’m also ticked that nobody—not one single person, not even the folks who get worked up about pipes, garbage pickup or even etiquette—commented on what I see as a serious failure on this city’s part to do the right thing.

At very least, this is an issue we  need to debate.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.

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