It was revealed yesterday that workers with the City of Abbotsford, BC intentionally spread manure on a camping area used by people experiencing homelessness near a Salvation Army shelter. The city manager has accepted responsibility for the action, apologized, and promised to rectify the situation by cleaning the site. This is an obvious case of trying to respond to a concern without addressing the root issues.
What is most dismaying about this story is how much it represents how we dehumanize those experiencing homelessness. This conceptualization sees them as a nuisance that needs to be driven out or driven away. The lengths we go to in doing so often include legislation, but also include this kind of despicable act, and it’s not the first time. We can demonize the individual city manager who was responsible for this decision, but how in our own communities do we define some as undesirable and attempt to drive them away?
What is suggested around this story is that it dehumanizes those experiencing homelessness. I agree with this assessment, but I want to add something as well. People experiencing homelessness are our neighbours, our friends, our family…part of our community. They are us. In dehumanizing those experiencing homelessness, all of humanity is lessened. It is our humanity we are taking away.