Not our problem

On Friday an article came out that has a quote dug right out of a social inequality gold mine. Christchurch City councillor Ali Jones says of a proposal to lease private rentals to help house the homeless this winter:

This is not social housing. This is kids, this is drug addiction, this is families and criminality. There’s a whole lot of stuff in here we should not be dealing with

The first thing to establish is the need for this plan. It’s probably only one proposal of several, but something needs to be done for the homeless of Christchurch. It gets cold there in winter, with snow at times. I cannot find any statistics on the number of people living on the streets in Christchurch, but anecdata suggests somewhere between dozens and hundreds. There are many lives affected by the decisions being made by people with homes to go back to in the evening, people who don’t know the first thing about living rough.

Ali Jones is not willing to endorse the council dedicating up to $400,000 to helping the homeless because they are kids, addicts, families, criminals, and that’s not who social housing is for. Wait, what? I thought social housing was for the vulnerable (kids, families, addicts) and for people who would otherwise have nowhere to live (criminals). In fact, people with criminal records are perhaps some of the most vulnerable when it comes to housing. Getting a place with a record can’t be easy, in the same way that getting a job isn’t easy.

Jones says that this is not core council business. If it’s not their business to provide for the needs of their community, then whose business is it? Central government will not. Charities cannot, because they just don’t have the resources. There are several charities in the Christchurch area that do great work with the homeless, but they are stretched far too thin to do any more than what they are already. Local government simply needs to step up.

There are benefits to Christchurch from housing homeless people properly. The savings in police time and in hospital time will be worthwhile. But I shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of economic justifications. These are people we’re talking about, and their lives are worth more than dollars and cents.

Jones speaks ‘at risk of sounding cold-hearted’. Lady, you don’t sound cold-hearted. You sound utterly heartless and preoccupied with what you think the role of local government is over the actual reality of human suffering. You are cherishing your pennies at the expense of the lives of others – people who you evidently believe have lives less valuable than your own. Being kids, addicts, criminals, does not make these people any less deserving of care than your own kin, and you should be thinking of them in terms of real human beings, not stereotypes.

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