Phil Melnychuk.

Phil Melnychuk.

Maybe a middle way for homelessness

Having no place to go, takes its toll

I figure it takes about 12 hours to turn into a zombie.

That’s the time it takes, if you become homeless, to change from a rational, articulate human – to becoming a mumbling, dazed, human who has no home and nowhere to go.

A zombie is someone who can’t think straight, someone who’s bordering on incoherence, because they’re incapacitated, in shock or traumatized, just trying to survive being outside.

It takes its toll, constantly being outside, coping with the hot or cold weather, the cold stares of busy people on their way to and fro.

Being without a place to go means you have no purpose or no place where you can just be – which means you’re out in the public, or hiding in the bush or under a cardboard box, passing time, just existing.

It’s no wonder people get sick, physically or mentally, and become subject to assault, ridicule and simply, mind-numbing, incapacitating boredom and loneliness. It’s no wonder people pick up a needle in order to cope. If you weren’t using before you hit the street, it would be understandable if you pick up a needle after any amount of time on the street.

George Orwell wrote somewhere – being homeless makes people want to kick you.

It’s easy to learn what it’s like to be homeless.

Put on an old coat, grab a small backpack, maybe leave your cellphone at home and walk the streets of Maple Ridge for a few hours, five or six maybe.

If you’re carrying a back pack though, you can’t go into a mall because the security guards will be on your case. Timmies will likely take you in for a half-hour or so for a double-double, before you have to pack up and leave, simply to find maybe a cafe for another half hour, providing you’ve got money. Maybe you’ll just have to hang out on a park bench.

Surprisingly quickly, you become numbed and exhausted. And soon you’re ambling about, spending a half hour here and there, your reserves draining, stress building, incoherence growing. If someone offered you a hand up, you’d likely couldn’t take it. Try it for half a day.

(Hitchhiking around once, I arrived at a single men’s hostel in mid-afternoon. Security told me to come back when it opened, but I couldn’t move. I was so tired and hungry, I sat there until the doors opened.)

We just can’t accept that people don’t have places to live in Canada, B.C., or Maple Ridge, even with rents at $1,500 a month.

Everyone in Maple Ridge agrees on that.

There should be no tent city and there should be no needles in parks or people sleeping on benches or hanging out in the Haney bypass tunnel. There should be no filching of propane tanks or bicycles.

The issue has been rending Metro Vancouver cities in two for a decade as the debate rages between enabling and helping, Housing First and tough love and accountability. It’s all about the model, is the latest buzz phrase.

Maybe the solution is within the blended approach, where homes are provided for everyone interested, so they can get their heads straight, such as in the Royal Crescent modular home project in Maple Ridge. That’s a place where people are taken in as they are, but a place where there’s supervision, expectations, and accountability. They’re essentially triages for our mental health system. And no, it won’t work for everyone. And there always will be homelessness, one city councillor told me, just like there always will be pot holes.

But such places are cheaper than hospitals and prisons.

I wonder if there’s any space at the Maple Ridge SPCA.

Phil Melnychuk is a journalist with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Food For The Soul is offering support for the homeless population from its store on the Lougheed Highway in downtown Maple Ridge. (The News files)
LETTER: Maple Ridge’s Food For The Soul Project doing great work

Society working with homeless population in the community

The Writing Home free creative writing workshops will run for eight weeks beginning Jan. 29. (Special to The News)
Creative writing workshops for immigrant women this month

Writing Home is for newcomers to Canada living in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

(Pixabay)
Officer from Maple Ridge prison lost career to PTSD

Bringing human rights complaint against BC Corrections

One staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village. (Google)
One staff member with COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village

Fraser Health announces vaccinations at all long-term care, assisted living facilities

The CubicFarm System moves rows of leafy greens through a system calibrated to grow the perfect crop. (cubicfarms.com)
Veritcal farm company based in Pitt Meadows, Langley raises millions

The company has raised more than $15 million from investors

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

The Delta Hospice Society operates the Harold & Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care (pictured) and the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. (The Canadian Press photo)
Fraser Health to evict Delta Hospice Society, open new hospice beds next door

Health authority will serve DHS 30 days’ notice when service agreement expires Feb. 25

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read