For a long time houselessness was an invisible problem in Cornwall. A person sleeping in their car or someone couch surfing is harder to recognize as houselessness and is easier to ignore.
The issue of houselessness has rapidly grown in Cornwall and it is now very visible.
There are now multiple encampments in this city, mostly near the waterfront where people who have no other shelter have built tent communities in which to live.
Tragically this past weekend one woman died at one of these encampments.
Like everyone else, this person had a family. Their life was valuable. She deserved better than to die in a tent on the cold ground in November.
Having an emergency shelter in Cornwall would be of little help to her now, but it can save others.
While the issue of houselessness has grown quickly in Cornwall over the past two or three years, we have known for a while that an emergency shelter would likely be needed.
In 2020 a city paid consulting firm, Colliers, reported to the city that they would need to add 741 affordable housing units over the next 10 years to meet demand and this was before the pandemic caused the demand for housing to increase dramatically.
The summer of the following year the first notable encampment of houseless individuals sprang up along the waterfront.
This summer a rally was held in Cornwall calling for more affordable housing and shelter beds.
In their response to the rally this summer, the City of Cornwall did not commit to offering any further solutions to the problem of houselessness beyond what they were already doing. They explained that they are actively engaging in a “shelter diversion philosophy,” aimed at preventing people from requiring an emergency shelter, and therefore saving the city the expense of having to run one.
I can’t think of anything more precious than a human life. The city needs to communicate how they will make sure that no more preventable deaths like this are going to occur. This woman deserved that. Her family deserves that. Everyone in this city experiencing houselessness deserves that. Why is it acceptable for there to be these encampments in the first place, let alone someone passing away living in a ten?
A local non-profit organization, Unity Street Help Association has been assisting those living in the encampments and is collecting funds on behalf of the woman’s family. They are asking anyone who wishes to donate to send an e-transfer to [email protected] with the woman’s name, Diane, in the message.