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Letter to the editor: Let’s discuss homelessness in Port Hardy

“The system of free supply and demand has failed miserably”

Dear editor,

I had it suggested that I take on a topic like homelessness (First reaction: that should be easy). But hold on: Homelessness, restricting myself to the geographic extent of our North Island Gazette and not be all over the map, as is Wilhelm’s habit. (I am sure the intelligent reader of our local paper can read between the lines and realize what looks like silly babbling all over the map is actually to convey a message with a serious intent.)

So let’s try!

To ask me to write about homelessness in Port Hardy, where the population, I am informed, was at one time 10,000 and is now down to 4000, give or take a few hundred people, is like asking me to write about water shortage in Ocean Falls, or the ability of Saudi Arabia to export drinking water. A town that could once house 10,000 and is down to 4000, give or take, surely we cannot expect homelessness; homelessness, that is caused by lack of affordability to pay and/or availability.

The reader must be aware that I am not in a position to determine the exact situation of supply and demand, but am writing from what I see and hear and read in the papers and hear on radio.

Met one fine gentleman. Actually, more correctly, I met his dog and the dog was the pretext of getting into a conversation, and as the saying goes: “speak to me that I may know you.” The man showed signs of past neglect and rather grim faced and often one decides it is better to just walk by and let sleeping dogs sleep, but his dog was sure anything but sleeping and this man supplied me with the information I needed to know about homelessness in Port Hardy. There isn’t any, except for the occasional eccentric who pretends he rather sleep in the bush under a make-shift hut than in a society that allows him ten dollar per day, after paying rent for $425 in the low cost housing units and then put up with neighbours (he probably refers to neighbours like himself —- misogamists, created by not being part of the “affluent society” (Galbraith), not born so but by the power of circumstances. Or you may have some guy who looks after a fish farm way out in the Broughton Archipelago, extolling the virtue of not depending on the system’s ability to supply homes or rental units for everyone, and that is, at prices that will leave sufficient money to live a clean and dignified life. (I noticed though that his great optimism, extolling his life style may have been helped by the fact he had just smoked a joint, the smell of which I do not have to be a Beagle dog but could identify a mile away.) (If I had my way, and the Reader knows me by now: get high on ideas and on fighting for a new world: H. Hesse’s poem, Den Kindern, 1914; Appeal to Children, 1914, a translation of which and distributed among young people to inspire them is now more imperative than ever, as young people fight now not only for a world of no war, but for a ‘World’!)

Then, I met also the one young man with his pack-sack and he tells me he lives in the bush but has intentions now to try to live in town again as it is getting a little uncomfortable out there.

Personally, I am reminded: back in 1997 I decided to move the family from remote (but geographically very beautiful) Port Alice to Port Hardy.

What backed out of the kitchen sink made me decide to use the temporary unit only for sleeping but not to touch one tiny scrump of bread even.

To take on the problem of housing, decent housing for all, I would need the privilege to write a series of articles on the subject to do it justice. One would have to include the in-affordability today of matching income and cost of housing. Or, why not become creative? Why not, instead of being “atomized”, every person for him/herself, why not community living, as was done in the early years after the collapse of the Roman Empire. (For interest sake: when one German tribe sacked Rome in 410 A.D. , Augustine was confused/shocked, how the Creator could allow such an event, when Christians had just then been accepted as part of the governing society.)

For instance, the Monasteries were a direct challenge to the insecurity of individual living. There was strength in numbers and strength in walled cities or abbeys and monasteries. (One had been built so secure, one had to take ropes to make it home, and that one was in faraway Ethiopia and another one in Greece and when one looks at the picture, one wonders, other than just getting home every day, what about building those structures in the first place — the tenacity of those monks, but there were also women who became abbesses, daughters of aristocrats who were looking for security for an unmarried daughter, and hence bequeathed land and means to make it possible.

We need creative solutions today to solve the housing crisis as it is obvious, only people who have that Canadian average or above average income, and better still, it takes two people with both good incomes to be able to afford a modern average or above average house, in Port Hardy and area but not in Vancouver or any of the major cities.

And what about furniture in those cheaper apartment units? Why do we not have a furniture shop, (as I found out my area in Germany I visited recently still has for local consumption) producing furniture locally and then require every new couple to buy local and not from far away Asia?! (“An article that is imported, if it takes away a job in the country, no matter how cheap the article, that article is always too expensive if it takes away a local job” — we seem to have forgotten that; yet millions at the time fought against globalization,” to quote economist, Dr. Fritz Schumacher, in his book, Good Work. (what is good work?)

I would invite a few members of our Legislature in Victoria and our House of Commons in Ottawa to visit our First Nations communities, from Coast, to Coast, to Coast, and see how the houses are furnished. (Not to mention how often there are a few families living in one house, built for only one family.)

The system of free supply and demand has failed miserably, and of course one of the factors is the discrepancy in in-affordability in housing in these larger centers especially, caused partly by low currency and much lower c/a countries, dumping cheap goods on us and then we wonder why things do not add up any more.

Europe had been devastated by war, the Second WW, yet they rebuilt the cities. (The Brexit people seem to have all forgotten the advantage of not having a devastating war every 50 years by being united and not once did I hear that mention in the debate of these honourable ladies and gentlemen in the British House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments, if not ancient Greece.

Here I have really strayed again from my assigned topic but would really wish to be allowed to take on related topics, one at a time.

Wilhelm Waldstein,

Port Hardy

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