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Homelessness campaign asks: How did you sleep last night?

The unforgiving slats of a park bench never make for a good night’s sleep, and the bench in Centennial Square is a reminder that homelessness is unacceptable, says the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.
The unforgiving slats of a park bench never make for a good night’s sleep, and the bench in Centennial Square is a reminder that homelessness is unacceptable, says the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

The bench, with a thin sleeping bag thrown over it and a garbage bag of belongings on the ground, is the first “installation” in a new public education campaign by the coalition.

It will move around the capital region between now and May and will be joined by three other installations illustrating problems such as youth and family homelessness. At the same time, advertisements will run in newspapers, on buses and around town.

“It will be a call to action,” said the coalition’s Andrew Wynn-Williams.

And, with a provincial election in May, the campaign is aimed squarely at candidates.

“We will tweet about where the installations will go, and we want anyone who agrees that homelessness is unacceptable to retweet it with the hashtag #unacceptableyyj,” Wynn-Williams said.

The coalition’s Twitter address is @homeforhope.

Politicians should get the message — provided there are enough tweets, he said.

The homelessness situation in Victoria has improved compared to five years ago, when it was predicted that numbers would grow 30 per cent a year, Wynn-Williams said.

The number of people who either do not have a roof over their heads or are in temporary accommodation such as shelters and transition houses is now holding fairly steady at about 1,200, Wynn-Williams said.

But many more are at risk of homelessness, as illustrated by the 20,000 people in Greater Victoria who used food banks last year, and there is a continuing shortage of affordable housing, he said.

“That’s why we have to do this campaign, because the challenging bit is it’s more out of sight now and people are not noticing it so much,” he said.

The provincial government has done a considerable amount of work on homelessness, but much of the help has gone to Vancouver, Wynn-Williams said.

“We want to say to them that homelessness can be solved. We need to continue the work,” he said.

“The federal government is also derelict in its duty — we’re the only G8 nation without a housing policy.”

The coalition’s goal is to end homelessness in the Greater Victoria region by 2018.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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