Residents denied a voice

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Editor: Denying, minimizing and ignoring the reality of what people see, hear and live on a day-to-day basis is gaslighting, a psychological method of attempting to make someone question their own reality.  An unwillingness to acknowledge the valid concerns regarding the number of homeless experiencing substance use disorder and mental health issues does a disservice to both homeless people and homeowners alike.

Hearing that “everything will be just fine” with the introduction to the neighbourhood of 50-plus troubled individuals, many with substance use disorder and mental health issues, is not credible. Does municipal administration believe that all of the well-documented issues that occurred in the downtown area and the TraveLodge will no longer exist in a new location?

It is understandable that affluent businessmen provided an alternate location that has brought an end to the issues they experienced.  It is also understandable that the TraveLodge chose not to renew their lease for housing the homeless. There are certain risks with specific populations and that does not change with location.

Tecumseh Park neighbourhood residents have good instincts and it is those instincts that keep them safe. They have observed the aggression of many new encampment residents walking their streets, both night and day, and are aware of the increase in violence and theft since many homeless, new to the Tecumseh Park area, are taking up residence in the nearby encampments.

Their concerns need to be taken seriously, and proactive planning to mitigate past and current issues needs to be developed in consultation with residents, and acted upon with consistency.

The residents of the Tecumseh Park neighbourhood need to be heard, understood and supported and part of that healing has to begin with the abandonment of the accusations of NIMBY.

The acronym, NIMBY, stands for “not in my backyard” and it has been used dismissively and with contempt. This attitude is consistent with the looks of disinterest, disdain and eye rolling that occurred when Tecumseh Park neighbourhood residents asked questions of municipal officials during the post-decision question period.

Using the term NIMBY is meant to stereotype individuals or groups who oppose projects as selfish or as hypocritical people who would ignore a project if it were built somewhere else. In some cases, that may be true, but in the case of the Tecumseh Park neighbourhood residents, it is not. Their platform and change.org petition is clear: No emergency shelter in any residential neighbourhood.  (There were more than 700 signatures on their petition at the time of writing.)

They understand the neighbourhood’s environmental design limitations that adversely impact crime rates. They recognize the recklessness of a decision to move homeless people experiencing substance use disorder and mental health issues into a neighbourhood without appropriate public consultation.

Was the decision-making process fair? Were undemocratic deals made? Are there better options? These are questions that might never get answered unless the people most affected have the courage to ask and this asking is not evidence of NIMBYism.

There is no good reason to deny people a democratic voice simply because of a self-imposed time constraint and/or the belief that the people most impacted are not worthy of an opinion and meaningful input. The motives of the Tecumseh Park residents are just as important as the families in the Merritt Avenue location and the downtown business owners.

Name calling is a form of bullying and bullies have no place in a civil society.  Please stop labelling people as NIMBY to avoid debate on the merits of their arguments. No one can help the homeless if their reality, their needs and the risks associated with this population are denied, minimized and ignored.

Let’s show respect for the insight and care that the Tecumseh Park neighbourhood residents possess. Let’s see an honest effort to collaborate with neighbours who wish to ensure that both the homeless population are well served and that the Tecumseh Park neighbours can enjoy their neighbourhood in safety and peace.

Jeff Piche

Chatham

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