I’m buying a whole bunch of books. To be exact, I narrowed it down to seven from 19. I’m getting them for free. What a deal!  

They were all bound for the recycling bin after one of my friends’ neighbours was evicted from their apartment. They were forced to leave much of their life behind, for what reason I do not know. 

We are well aware that homelessness and housing affordability are major issues in our community. The encampments in Kitchener and Cambridge continue to be points of contention for the cities. Even though I don’t know these people, just their books were enough to elicit sympathy and compassion for their situation. 

I am surprised, then, at the heartlessness, apathy and sheer audacity of our Kitchener city and regional councils. At the June 22 regional council meeting, there was plenty of back-patting and horn-tooting galore. Council members hailed themselves as some sort of saviours, said Waterloo Region was some sort of role model for other cities dealing with a housing crisis.  

And then, they took legal action against people in one of the most marginalized demographics.  

I’m not pretending I have a solution to the housing crisis, but there are some caring people who are experts in their fields that are willing to address different aspect of this complicated issue, such as the delegates at that meeting. Or at least, council members should listen to the people that are living in the encampments about why they’re there, why the shelters and services in our region didn’t work for them.  

Saying that the crisis is a problem and we a need to take a human rights approach makes you neither a role model nor deserving of compliments. You’re wasting your time and ours.  

I understand that things take time to happen, especially with our bureaucracy, but at this point it’s as if the pot has already boiled over and council members are debating how to take it off the stove because doing so takes time and actually might not even be the best course of action anyway. They’re so caught up in the debate, they forget to turn the stove off.  

I don’t understand the desire to make people “feel heard” or “feel safe” without putting significant effort into actually listening and creating safe spaces. I don’t see how people can demand gratitude when they’ve done less than the bare minimum—acknowledging that we need to think about human rights is simply not enough anymore. Do council members and politicians need constant and abundant praise to adequately do their job?  

I thought council would be slow to act but never predicted this shamelessness and lack of empathy. Why not just bulldoze right through the encampment? We’ve done it before.  

While councils must maintain financial integrity, that is not their sole purpose. They are also obligated to represent and serve the interests and well-being of their constituents—people without housing may not all technically be constituents, but they are members of the community, nonetheless.  

Council members must work with their staff and colleagues and make evidence-based decisions. However, our council seems stuck in the research process.  

If what council says is true—that they want to address housing insecurity and help our community in a human-rights-based approach—then they need to either start taking action or stop being obstacles.