EBO Contributing Member Christine Nayler spoke at Tuesday night's Public Meeting, but her deputation was cut short. The following is the full deputation she had planned.
Rev. Christine Nayler, EBO Contributing Member:
I am Reverend Christine Nayler, and I am the Co-Founder and Director of Ryan’s Hope. We are a non-profit organization with a mission to advocate for and support people living with mental illness, substance use issues, and experiencing homelessness. For the past 2-1/2 years we have provided direct support and outreach services to the most vulnerable residents of our community, those that are unsheltered and living outside. Through our Breakfast -To- Go program, our evening street outreach, and our Loads of Love free laundry program we have daily contact with between 50-to 200 people who are living unsheltered in our community. Our organization is 100% volunteer run and community supported. We operate on a mutual aid model of neighbours helping neighbours as we believe this is how we build community. We also believe this is how we challenge stigma and combat fear and ignorance.
I hear often on social media and through this council even that ‘residents’ are afraid to go downtown, can’t enjoy the waterfront due to safety concerns caused by the homeless or people who use drugs. The claims that homeless people and people who use drugs are dangerous and unsafe are unfounded.
There is a difference between being uncomfortable and being unsafe.
For those that have the privilege of being housed and being able to afford food, those that have never been touched by having a family member who lives with a mental illness or addiction coming face to face with the realities of these issues may make them feel uncomfortable – and yes it may take away from their enjoyment of an evening outing for dinner or coffee but it cannot be allowed take away the human rights of the most vulnerable residents of our community.
Council has a responsibility to ALL residents of Barrie and that includes those that are unsheltered, living in encampments, and living with mental illness, and substance use issues.
Council does not have the right to ignore their human rights and the human rights of the community members that have stepped up to respond to the failures of all levels of governments by feeding, clothing, and sheltering our friends in whatever temporary means possible.
I challenge the false narrative being spread in our community that our unhoused residents are dangerous to the general population and commit crimes against them thus there is reason to fear them. In fact the exact opposite is true.
It has been statistically proven that those that are homeless, or have mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes than to perpetrate them.
Our lived experience from doing direct street outreach has confirmed this. We have heard of multiple cases of people leaving bars drunk downtown and deliberately targeting homeless people, harassing, robbing, and assaulting them and vandalizing their property. We have had to give tents over and over again to people whom have had their tents repeatedly slashed by housed members of our community. We witnessed on several occasions at our breakfast program when we were serving in the Salvation Army parking lot our friends having buckets of water poured on them from a balcony in a neighboring building because people were sitting on the steps to eat their breakfast and a building resident didn’t like it. We watched as our friends calmly got up and moved away not reacting because they were unfazed by this treatment. As volunteers we were more upset and outraged that the people that this had happened to because for them it was common for them to be treated this way, because they had become so accustomed to this dehumanizing behaviour towards them.
My whole family is actively involved in the work we do through Ryan’s Hope supporting our unhoused neighbours. This includes my two grandchildren who have done outreach with me and participated in our community events. Many of our volunteers also bring their children and grandchildren to volunteer with them and we have many students who are fulfilling their community service hours with us. None of them have felt unsafe to participate and all of them have enjoyed the experience. I have watched beautiful inter-generational friendships form between volunteers and the people we serve. Last summer we participated in a community garden partnership with Trinity Anglican church and I watched as unhoused residents tended to the garden with seniors from our community. They shared gardening knowledge and life stories and over the course of the summer friendships formed.
I feel council has a duty as elected leaders of our community to bring community together, to dispel fear and stigma not to feed into and fuel it.
There are many proactive steps council could be taking to address the shortage of affordable housing in our community that would cost far less than these punitive measures and would have a much more meaningful impact on our community. Mahatma Ghandi said “the truest measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” I ask council to consider what kind of city are you trying to create? What do you want Barrie to be known for, our inhumanity, or the way we look after each other?
I would also like to ask council to consider the legal implications of enacting these proposed bylaws which violate the fundamental human rights protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and International Human Rights.
As a ordained multi-faith minister I can tell you that all major religions share the same core common value, to love our neighbour, to care for our neighbour. Enacting a bylaw that prohibits people from distributing food, and basic necessities of life goes against a Fundamental Freedom, the freedom of Conscience and Religion as guaranteed in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These bylaws also violate the guaranteed freedom of those that are unsheltered as protected in Section 7 - Life, liberty, and security of person. In January 2023 the Ontario Superior Court ruled that a municipality could not evict encampment residents when there were not enough shelter spaces in the municipality for those living in the encampment. The ruling upheld the right for of those that are unsheltered to take action to provide shelter for themselves.
Justice Valente writes: "I accept that it is simply not a matter of counting the number of spaces. To be of any real value to the homeless population, the space must meet their diverse needs, or in other words, the spaces must be truly accessible. If the available spaces are impractical for homeless individuals, either because the shelters do not accommodate couples, are unable to provide required services, impose rules that cannot be followed due to addictions, or cannot accommodate mental or physical disability, they are not low barrier and accessible to the individuals they are meant to serve." (Waterloo ONSC at para 93)
As someone doing direct boots on the ground outreach in this community I can tell you that there is not enough shelter spaces in our community for everyone experiencing homelessness and of the shelter spaces available there are none for couples, people with pets, and none low barrier enough to meet the needs of those with serious mental health and addiction issues.
Enacting these bylaws will do nothing to address the root issue of homelessness in our community, will do nothing to create a safer community, will displace and put our most vulnerable members at greater harm and risk and will open the city up to the expense of multiple legal challenges. I therefore appeal to your humanity and common sense.
Nelson Madela said “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Is this what this council is intent on doing? If so, then SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!
Engage Barrie Organization encourages our members and guests to contribute blog posts on a variety of topics that fall under our "equitable, empowered, engaged" umbrella, in the hopes of sharing a variety of perspectives and experiences. Please be aware that the views and opinions expressed by our blog contributors do not necessarily reflect any official position of Engage Barrie Organization.