If you are not a visible part of the problem, you may not be included in the solution.
In Mid – August, when a solution was determined for Victoria’s Tent City, orders were distributed and all 300 residents of the encampment who wanted housing were assigned a place to live. The location was disinfected, the property is returned as public property to the rightful owners and the incident will go into the books as a powerful lesson. The public outcry for a solution forced the powers to be to find a sociably acceptable solution as simply displacing 300 homeless people was not an option. Despite the enormous costs, increase in local crime and burdens incurred by local businesses, there was a somewhat happy ending for 300 people who now have secure roofs over their heads.
Iain Anthony has been homeless and living on the streets of Victoria for over six years. At sixty, he felt too old for the crowded and boisterous Tent City and opted to stay away. Iain continued sleeping in doorways as he has been doing for many years. Iain doesn’t party, doesn’t consume drugs and prefers to keep quietly to himself; Tent City wasn’t the place for him. As a result, he never made it on the list with the inhabitants of Tent City. As you read this article, Iain is still living on the streets of Victoria.
Today, while talking to him on the street, I found him to be an articulate and gentle person, defying his circumstances. This man could be anyone’s father or grandfather
Iain grew up in Ontario and Saskatchewan in several foster homes and was completely on his own by the time he was twelve years old. His story is long and winding, including many highs and lows. As he shares his story with me, he is quick to offer that he has made a lot of mistakes and regrets certain portions of his life. He spent 30 years as a journeyman welder and experienced success at different points. He has four estranged children whom he hasn’t communicated with for years. Iain shared that alcohol is a contributing factor in his downfall and largely responsible for where he is today.
Our short visit today is constantly interrupted by greetings from his comrades and the public alike. The obvious mutual respect is astonishing.
As we’re talking, Iain’s case worker, Katie Thorne, stops by and asks if there was anything that he needs. He simply says that he had been cold the night before. When asked where he slept, he matter-of-factly mentions a storefront in China Town. Katie and Iain continue to arrange a rendezvous for that afternoon so they can visit the Salvation Army to get some warmer clothes for him.
Throughout our discussions, I realise Iain wants and is committed to finding a way off the street. However, the lack of housing available for people in his position is real. The wait list for social housing is long. The typical solutions for homeless people are not ideal for him given his age and his ultimate goal of sobriety and stability. The only real hope for his success is that he finds a bachelor unit in the private rental market before winter sets in. Here he can concentrate on getting his life back on track. Just imagine trying to rent an apartment without having a telephone, a job or references. I realise that Katie is his lifeline.
UPDATE: As of November of 2015, after being on the streets for the better part of six years, Iian Anthony has found a home.