Editorial – Finding A Solution For Homelessness Starts at the Top

In Editorial

Editorial – The shoreline beach homeless encampment – is it so bad?

People have their views on the homeless. Some have an open mind. With others, frankly it’s not worth writing about.

There are so many twists and turns to homelessness, frankly it would take up an entire book.

But let’s get to the facts as they are today – in Cobourg.

A number of homeless people are camped out along the west beach, just west of the west pier.

Cobourg Council voted to allow them to stay – for now.

People that live close to the area may not be happy. In fact, people that don’t live close to the area may not be happy.

But for now – it’s there, people are there.

And looking on Tuesday, the encampment will be there for awhile given the town has just installed two port-a-potties and a garbage bin.

So, it looks like we are all in it for the long haul.

These are strictly observations from tonight.

There were approximately 15-people who were in and out of the tents. To the people that were out of their tents, I explained that I was taking photos of the tents and not the people. They appreciated being notified.

In fact, everyone of the people that spoke to me at the encampment were extremely polite to myself.

Let me say that again, – they were extremely polite.

Other than one person who came up unannounced, and I don’t believe is homeless, everyone there was very gracious and open to myself. It was what I’d hoped – an honest conversation. We all spoke for approximately 15-minutes before the interruption. After that – it was so mixed up and confusing it was hardly worth it – which was unfortunate. The person is believed to be a member of the groups that help the homeless – but it was the wrong time and place for his shenanigans.

Some of the people at the encampment said the person who came up unannounced was acting like a bully to myself. And they actually stuck up for me, as previously we were having a pleasant conversation.

Tonight’s lesson for myself was one that I’ve learned when dealing with some Hollywood actors. Dealing with the actual actors aren’t as bad as trying to get access to them because of the people taking care of them. In this case, if this person was taking care of the encampment residents, he set the wrong tone for both the encampment residents and the media.

One woman at the encampment who spoke with Today’s Northumberland asked what people thought of them there. I asked if she really wanted to hear. She did. So I said that some, maybe most of the public doesn’t want them there. People in the tents and outside the tents could be heard saying it’s because they are criminals, druggies, addicts and more.

And, that is likely why people don’t want them there.

But they are people. And at that time I was there, they were very civil people who I’d gladly have a conversation with anytime. Frankly, I look forward to the next time I can chat with them – hopefully uninterrupted.

We all have to find a solution for this. At some point, we all get mad. But that doesn’t help solve the situation. So we need to find a solution – for all of us.

When I spoke with another homeless couple last week, they stated there was a pickup truck with a camper on it and bbq that was camping in the grassy parking lot of the marina and no one did anything about it being there. They felt like there was a target on them.

They had a point.

The public has a perception that homelessness equals drugs and crime. And honestly, it can be. Like any home in any neighbourhood in any town or city. But it can also mean so much more. As stated in previous editorials, it can mean losing your job and you can’t afford the rent, it can mean mental illness and not finding the right help, or just not wanting to follow the rules. Each one has its own solution that doesn’t fit other groups. Homelessness isn’t captured by one category.

In having an open conversation with the group I said, it might be best to try not to give a reason for people to not want you here. But Today’s Northumberland has had several people contacts us about people using the outside taps at Legion Village and plugging in their cell phones to outlets on the property. This is where encampment residents have to trust and rely on one another. Good or bad, they will all be lumped together if things go south.

Looking around at some of the tents, they were clean. Firewood piled neatly, clothes piled neatly for drying.

Today’s Northumberland has also heard of a break-in to a nearby shed that took place and other things happening in the area.

Whether that is happening by some members of the encampment – who knows.

There are other issues that will bring more frustration to the fold.

More people are coming to the encampment – more tents.

Are they from Cobourg, or coming in from elsewhere?

If a homeless encampment allows anyone from anywhere to attend and stay, it will be a very difficult situation to control.

For others who enjoy camping, it’s a campers delight depending on where the encampment is situated in any given town. But in Cobourg, it’s prime real estate overlooking Lake Ontario.

Leaving the area, more people were obviously coming down to either visit or set up camp. Later in the night, there were approximately 40-people.

There are many aspects of homelessness that won’t be solved on the west beach in Cobourg.

The encampment residents need to have an open and honest dialogue with people in government who make the decision. Neither side needs advocates or people in the middle.

The top is where things get solved, and that’s where the discussion should start.


Editor’s Note: As I was leaving one of the people at the encampment handed me a note. At first I thought he wanted me to take it – but he wanted me to read it. He wanted to keep it because it meant that much to him. The person explained a photographer was in the area taking photos along the shoreline and asked that they remove a tent. They did.

The photographer left this note for the people at the encampment that reads as follows:

“Dear Friends

I really appreciate you taking the time to take down your tent so that we could run our fundraiser photoschools. Your kindness does not go unnoticed. Please enjoy some treats from a very thankful photographer. Have a wonderful day!


Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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