The False Promise of NIMBY

NIMBY – Not in my backyard.

This has long been the response of many housed citizens towards homelessness, a focus on moving the problem rather than dealing with it in any effective, long-term manner.  Interestingly, we see this phenomenon in broader political situations as well, in particular with the Romani people this year in France.  As France expels Romani people from the country, other EU nations suggest that this is not a long-term solution, and simply shifts the problem elsewhere.  NIMBY is a by-product of human selfishness, rather than human concern.

Joe Anybody has a good post on RV dwellers in southern California.  As communities seek to push them out, nothing is solved, people are simply forced to go elsewhere.  The same issues have come up here in London, Ontario on the local level, with concerns raised regarding methadone clinics near schools, social assistance offices in the downtown core, or shelters near busy streets.  It seems that no one wants to be confronted by poverty.  However, people will be in the area of the city that they need to be in, so it makes most sense to me to locate services where people are, rather than making transportation an even bigger problem for people who are experiencing homelessness.

This is also a bigger issue than just locally, as evidenced by the large number of homeless persons that come to London from surrounding rural or small town areas.  Because London has services to people who are homeless, individuals come here from other towns that have nothing.  This demonstrates how each municipality needs to consider how their policies will effect others.  So, when London creates anti-panhandling laws (as mentioned in this excellent post by Andrew Schiestel), some people will move to other cities where they find it easier to survive.  Similarly, if we were to suddenly create all the services that we know are needed, there would be a massive influx of people coming to access these services.  For example, if we were to start a wet shelter, it would be beneficial for Windsor, Kitchener, and others to start them as well.

It is important that we seek solutions to social problems such as homelessness, rather than finding ways to move them further sight.

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