I read with some frustration the article posted yesterday on the Welland Tribune website entitled “Welland’s homeless directed to St. Catharines for warmth”.
The short version: Welland social agencies have nowhere to send their homeless residents at this time of year, and so are giving them bus tickets to come to St. Catharines where we have shelters. Shelters, I should add, that are partially funded by City taxpayers. Had the City not stepped in and partnered with Start Me Up Niagara this year – not just with dollars, but with a location for 3 nights of the week as well – there may not have been an Out of the Cold program at all.
We will never turn away people in need of shelter, but placing additional strain on our city’s limited resources to serve our most vulnerable population is not in the interest of our community or those who live here.
Other communities need to assist in the effort to aid our Region’s most vulnerable. If other communities need assistance in developing appropriate programs, I would be willing to strike a regional/multi-municipality working group to offer advice and assistance.
If communities want us to be the leaders in dealing with the most vulnerable in the Region, we can do that. The costs, however, need to be shared. St. Catharines taxpayers should not be expected to shoulder the load for the Region.
Vulnerable people deserve better than a bus ticket out of town. They deserve compassion and care. We’ll provide that in our community, but that doesn’t absolve other communities of their responsibility to help deal with the issues at hand.