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Letters  

Help needed now, not later

For the past three winters, Emmanuel Church in West Kelowna has provided sleeping mat space, showers, laundry facilities, and at first cold breakfasts and latterly hot breakfasts and suppers for 20 to 25 homeless citizens.

They worked first alone, and then with a not for profit society – West Kelowna Shelter Society – and the United church began a separate lunch program as well.

While this did not address all homeless people, and is not a long-term solution, most citizens would agree that to help 25 out of 75 is a good start and far better than nothing. Then, the provincial government stepped in, saying they would look after it, and apparently decreed the end of this program for the winter now upon us.

Both directions can be pursued at the same time. The volunteer sector can work to simply solve the immediate need of as many as it can, while the bureaucrats meet, analyze, craft, negotiate, and work with consultants to devise a long-term solution. Both are needed, but do not let 25 or 30 people freeze and go hungry today while the administrators pontificate and consult.

Only someone with a secure job, health benefits and an indexed pension would see closing mats and meals for homeless people as good management! Long-term solutions are needed, and government has a role to play. However, the volunteer groups can get the urgent needs covered for some and maybe, just maybe, another church, synagogue, mosque, the Lions, or Rotary can find a way to offer a similar program for some more.

Now is the time for the new city council to show what they are standing for – change direction to help homeless citizens or continue the old policy of staying out of the social issue.

They have the power to license and the financial ability to assist the volunteer sector to help the 25 or 30 to get safely through the winter. Alternatively, they can abide by the dictates of Big Brother in Victoria, and spend time to research and study of the problem in hopes of finding a long-term solution before 2020 while 25 people are not helped but are worse off because of this council’s decision. 

Doug Waines, West Kelowna



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