19 July 2009

Of Rights, Shelter & Government-Imposed Classes

This post is in response to MetisRebel's Survey THIS Homeless Medication.

The issue of pets touches me personally. Many people who live isolated lives, by choice or otherwise, have animal companions. A number of them, in turn, are extremely poor.

For those with animal companions, their lives may well depend on that association. Pets can help the lonely or the isolated maintain their humanity. The animals are someone to come home to, someone to care for, someone who appreciates their human's affection and ministration. The presence of an animal can be the only thing left that mediates between life and death.

Trapped in a province that allows property owners to deny others' rights they themselves have, in a province where less than 1 in 20 rental units are pet-friendly, I am paying over 70 percent of my income to stay in this bachelor apartment. With the cost of rental units soaring and the vacancy rates plummeting below two percent, nothing else is available.

BC's Residential Tenancy Act essentially supports at least 12 different classes of people. Listed in order of those having the most to the least rights in terms of housing or shelter, they represent people who:

  1. own their own home and have property they rent out.
  2. own a freehold home.
  3. own a strata home.
  4. singles or couples who rent and have no children or pets. This group has choice among 100% of rental units available.
  5. couples who rent and have children.
  6. single people who rent and have children - unless they are known to be on welfare, in which case they join group 7.
  7. renters who are non-white, openly LGBT, or are members of other groups that are targets of discrimination.
  8. people who rent and have animal companions.
  9. street people with children - more likely to be sheltered than 10, 11 or 12.
  10. street people living on their own who are not known addicts.
  11. street couples - shelters often separate the pair.
  12. street people with pets - shelter almost always denied the animals.

As to the welfare of homeless animals, I've not seen any animal with a street person who is other than cherished and cared for - see, e.g., these photos of a 'homeless' community.

I'd choose living on the street with my companions than give up either of my cats in order to be housed. Their companionship is essential to my health and the continuance of my life.

ETA: Firefighters recognize the importance of animals, as evidenced in this story just reported in the Victoria Times-Colonist.

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