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Opinion: People need to reach out to those they fear

Modular housing brings some people into direct contact with their own conflicting attitudes towards the welfare of their fellow citizens

Mobile housing units aimed at helping the homeless transition off the streets are making some Vancouverites scared. Illustration: Perrin Grauer
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Reported by Perrin Grauer

Fear will always speak the loudest, and the only solution is an authentic encounter with another human being.

As modular housing designed to stabilize people while they transition off the streets begin to pop up in neighbourhoods around the city, some residents are concerned that it will incline the crime rate within their community.

These residents are making it clear that they are both sympathetic to the plight of the city’s homeless and yet they are unwilling to share a fence with them.

And I’m usually quick to criticize those who lament the suffering of the vulnerable, but who oppose any solution that brings that suffering closer to home.

Personal example

I would cry shame that anyone could allow fear to trump empathy for a fellow citizen.

But then a week ago, my housemates and I discovered that a young homeless man, clearly in distress, had taken up residence in our laundry room. And without a moment’s hesitation, we tossed his belongings into the alley and told him unequivocally that he should never return.

We didn’t offer to find him shelter. We didn’t offer to feed him or make a call to an outreach clinic on his behalf. We were scared.

The power of fear completely overrode everything I have claimed to stand for and everything I have learned from a decade of living and working in the Downtown Eastside. So, I understand the fear that many have expressed regarding modular housing in their neighbourhoods.

The real problem in creating a city where everyone has a home is it’s going to take trust, patience, courage, and empathy. And those things are impossible to legislate.

So, until each of us take the time to reach out to those that we might otherwise fear, fear is our city planner. And that’s no city I want to live in.

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