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LETTER: Approach homelessness with compassion, not condemnation

Orillia can be the first in Simcoe County to solve homelessness, reader says
Orillia native Tyler Dunlop has penned an autobiographical book on his experiences with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction, and his journey from a place of pursuing medically assisted death and back to a place of hope. He has some suggestions to improve the situation in Orillia.

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via our website. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from a reader who has experienced homelessness and recently published a book about his experiences on the streets.

I have some thoughts about the dire homeless situation in Orillia.

Orillia needs at least three 'mat-program' harm reduction based out-of-the-cold shelters that wait, not until -16 as proposed, but that start at 0 degrees when cold becomes more or less impossible. This will eliminate fires at local encampments.

A single police unit could monitor activities outside the three locations, as well as keep an eye on those outdoors without moral judgment.

Bagged lunches, mitts, hats, jackets and other clothing items could be contributed by any willing agencies.

I was told about the deepening situation by a local friend and still consider myself a proud Orillian.

We need to approach the issue with compassion and NOT condemnation.

If every citizen (or even 50 per cent) were to adopt this mindset, central Orillia would no doubt show noticeable improvement.

As in Vancouver, restaurant owners provided bi-weekly meals in public to the homeless. Why not Orillia?

If traditional social isolation and removal policies regarding homelessness persist, you will experience...

a) More sizable encampments
b) More fires
c) Increased crimes borne out of desperation
d) Further panhandling
e) More emergency service usage
f) Public open drug-use

The -16 policy is ridiculous! Try and sleep (with double winter layers) in -1 and you'll see what I mean!

Orillia can be the first in Simcoe County to solve homelessness. We can do it together!

Tyler James Dunlop