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Letters: Homeless camps are a 'national human rights crisis'

Letter writer points out housing is a human right and advocates for a 'continuum of care' for unhoused people.
A homeless encampment is overshadowed by the Holiday Inn in Richmond.

Dear Editor, 

Re: "Homeless population growing in Richmond as warming centres set to close"

I’d like to thank Richmond News for their excellent article on the state of homelessness in the city of Richmond on April 8. 

Canada's homeless encampments are a national human rights crisis, but now that Richmond has ended their shelter service, a city designated encampment might be a more humane step to sustainable housing than nothing at all.

A growing number of people in Canada are having to live in tents or informal shelters to survive due to a lack of affordable housing, limited support services, and nowhere safe to go. 

In February of this year, the Federal Housing Advocate, a human rights watchdog, released her findings about the factors leading to the rise in encampments and, most importantly, the concrete measures that must be taken by all governments – including her urgent call for a National Encampments Response plan to be developed by Aug. 31, 2024.

Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities, Sean Fraser, now has 120 days to respond to these human rights findings. 

Encampments are a national human rights crisis because people living in encampments face harassment and violence from police, bylaw officers and members of the public.

They do not have access to basic services like clean water or heat. Some have suffered harm or have died as a result of exposure, fire, overdose, and other threats to life and safety.

These conditions amount to violations of fundamental human rights, including the human right to housing.

However, without some kind of plan for helping individuals who are experiencing homelessness, they will continue to fall through the cracks.

There must be a pathway to a continuum of care; otherwise, people will continue to struggle alone, without supports, without neighbours who care, or a community to belong to.

We need to begin regular dialogue with people on the streets to hear about what they need so we can find solutions to homelessness that genuinely respect their dignity and uphold human rights.

To learn more about the Advocate’s urgent call for action, click here

John Hall


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