A lack of a homeless shelter diminishes Sooke

A community’s true character is shown by how it treats its most vulnerable.

In the weeks to come, the citizens of Sooke will once again demonstrate their kindness, generosity and caring as they donate to a series of initiatives meant to help those less fortunate than themselves.

If past experience is any indicator, they will fill the shelves of the Sooke food bank with donations to the Santa Run, the 10,000 Tonight campaign, and through donations of food at any one of a series of drop-off bins in the community. They’ll drop money into the Salvation Army kettles and many will pick tags off the giving-trees in shopping malls and donate to make some stranger’s life a little brighter.

And that doesn’t even touch on the scores of individual acts of kindness and generosity done in private, without an expectation of reward or recognition.

Cynics may say that all that kindness and generosity are just a part of a Christmas spirit–a feeling that comes alive in even the most Grinch-like heart during this season. It is, after all, a season that wraps itself around you like a shawl and warms, not the body, but the soul.

But we choose to think it’s more than that. We believe it’s an indicator that the people of Sooke realize that their gifts do more than help the less forutnate–they serve to lift up those who give in equal measure.

It’s been said that to know a person’s true character, observe how they treat those who don’t matter. That’s true of any individual, and it’s true, we believe, of the community as a whole.

The giving spirit in this community shows that the people of Sooke are good people.

That’s why the news that Sooke still has no extreme weather shelter for the homeless and that every church, service group and organization that has been approached to date has refused to offer any help comes as such a disappointment.

There are as many as 100 homeless souls in our community. In the face of a sudden cold snap or other extreme weather, some could die, shivering alone in the darkness.

John Donne famously wrote that no man is an island and that the death of suffering of any person, no matter how wretched they may be, diminishes us all.

It’s a fundamental truth that should inspire the residents of Sooke to stand up this Christmas and say “we’re better than this”.

And even though the homeless have, at times, been their own worst enemies, with behaviours arising from mental illness or addictions, we need to consider a basic question.

Does withholding our help reflect more on them, or us?

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