Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not in my Neighbourhood

I read an article in one of our newspapers today about a group of residents that was spreading fear in an effort to block Habitat for Humanity from building 20 family homes in their neighbourhood. Among the issues raised were the concern about, crime, drinking, drugs, ``and probably pimping too``. Apparently the objections were based on safety, traffic, and property value concerns.

This is not the first time something like this has happened in our city. Several years ago an organization tried to place a group home for several adults with developmental disabilities into a quiet neighbourhood. The group home owner-operators provided 24 hour in-house support and supervision for these 3 or 4 adults. Area residents rose up in arms to block this group from moving into a house that had already purchased by the group home operators. I didn`t understand or agree with the objections. Years ago I lived on a street with a group home for 4 adults with developmental disabilities right across from us. They were great neighbours! They smiled broadly when you greeted them, the place was always well looked after, they were very quiet, the residents went to their work placements every day - in short, they were like everyone else in the community. Probably better than some others living in the area.

Several years ago citizens of another community in our province protested the placement of a Crisis Stabilization Unit for people with mental illness into their neighbourhood. This facility was intended to serve the people in that community that struggled from time to time. It didn`t matter - residents didn`t want it in their neighbourhood.

Many more stories like these come to mind.

Several days ago I read about people in another province who objecting to a plan of their government intended to assist new immigrants whose professional credentials, which they had gained in their home countries, did not meet the required standards in this country. The provincial government initiative would provide these new immigrants with the further training and skill upgrades they required to be able to practice their chosen profession here. A great hue and cry arose, claiming that these immigrants were receiving preferential treatment to the detriment of current citizens. Immigrants were snapping up employment opportunities, etc. I learned that a recent study showed that the loudest objections to more immigration came from recent landed immigrants.

Why all this resistance? Why the discrimination? Why the bigotry?

Why are people so afraid of others that are different?

Why do we think the worst of those not like us?

Why do we maintain a distance between 'us' and 'them'?

Do I need to examine myself, my preferred circle of friends, and step out of my comfort zone to engage people I prefer to avoid?

I'm not sure I want to. Things are quite comfortable the way they are.

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