Taking care of our homeless neighbours starts with us

Two hands holding a house

The Kingston community—students, the Queen’s administration, and the City itself—have a responsibility to take care of its homeless neighbours.

A recent letter to the editor appearing in the Kingstonist recounted events that occurred last summer, as Kingston’s homeless community—many of whom were evicted from the Belle Park encampment at the end of summer—struggled to find adequate shelter.

No one should be denied housing, regardless of their circumstances. Kingston’s homeless population is as much a part of its community as anyone else, and the City has a duty to take care of them.

Many within Kingston’s homeless community are veterans who served to protect and fight for their country. While Ontario announced in November it would be building 25 tiny homes for homeless veterans in Kingston, this doesn’t provide housing for the City’s non-veteran homeless residents.

Veterans or not, resources are also greatly needed to address mental health and addiction issues within the homeless community. Making these resources more accessible would help Kingston’s homeless get the help they need.

But Kingston’s housing crisis isn’t just a systemic issue—it’s also a cultural one. At Queen’s, students can often make jokes or look down on the homeless they encounter downtown, rather than offer help.

Changing our rhetoric as students is just one approach to better supporting Kingston’s homeless. While many of us are only Kingston residents for a short four years, in attending Queen’s we become a part of the City’s community, regardless of the duration of our stay.

Kingston’s homeless aren’t just people living on the streets—they’re our neighbours.

Queen’s students must accept they have a role to play in this community. We can’t distance ourselves from issues that might not directly affect us—instead, we must advocate for the resources homeless need.

Help comes in many shapes and forms. Students have options: volunteering, donating, and raising money, to name a few. Additionally, students can leave their empty bottles in bags by their doors so the homeless don’t have to rummage through recycling bins.

Like its students, the University is a part of the Kingston community and could—should—do more to help its homeless. While Queen’s initially responded positively to calls to open up its empty residence buildings to homeless individuals over the summer, it failed to follow through.

That said, there are plenty of non-profit organizations working to keep the homeless safe and supported.

At Queen’s, an optional AMS fee goes toward Dawn House—an organization that provides affordable housing for women.

If you’re not sure how to help, opting into this fee, or supporting other non-profit organizations, is a small but important thing you can do.

The beautiful part about Kingston is the different populations within its borders: students, residents, Queen’s faculty, and homeless alike. Neighbours help neighbours, and right now, Kingston’s homeless need that help the most.

—Journal Editorial Board

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