Don’t close the Salvation Army, says Anita Hauck, one of the residents of the Cliff Avenue camp.
It doesn’t enable people, she says, because people will keep using drugs whatever the circumstances and the only thing that will ever stop a junkie is hitting rock bottom.
“Pretty much you have to become sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Hauck, who’s been living in the camp since it formed last spring.
Kicking a drug habit isn’t a magical process of just dealing with mental health issues, then all of a sudden you’re not using again.
What happens is people start realizing they’re not worthless anymore and they realize they care for others and others do the same.
“When I hit rock bottom, I’d just had enough of being heartbroken and sad.”
Hauck, who was a crack cocaine addict for 15 years in Vancouver, said the Salvation Army’s Caring Place helps many people find treatment.
Maple Ridge city council passed a resolution last month, asking B.C. Housing to stop paying the Salvation Army $1 million a year to run the 25-bed emergency shelter.
Hauck said there’s no one shelter that can solve all issues. She volunteers in the Sally Ann kitchen several days a week.
“The new shelter should be in addition to instead of,” she said.
Vancouver has many homeless shelters.
Instead, what’s needed is another shelter that will help people on a variety of levels.
Many homeless have phobias and obsessive compulsive disorders and hoard.
“When you have nothing, you hoard on to everything you get.”
One recent result of Mayor Nicole Read’s focusing on the issue, however, gives Hauck optimism.
The rental supplements that B.C. Housing is offering to those on social assistance or disability will see top-up rental payments to landlords so people can afford to get their own place.
Hauck said she’s never heard of that until recently.
“It’s incredible. It gives you a feeling of independence.”
It feels good to wake up in your own place without having to have worry about dealing with other people in a shelter or a rented room.
“The power that has, in itself, is astounding for people trying to get off drugs.”
Once they find out what it’s like having their own place, they’ll stay motivated to try to stay clean, she said.
Hauck said people gathered at Cliff Avenue in the spring as a way of protesting their plight.
“We decided to go there because it was the best place to send a message.”
But she agrees, it should be dismantled when the city’s temporary shelter opens in October on Lougheed Highway.
She said that bystanders who yell at the homeless should keep one thing in mind: “There’s not a thing you can say to us that we haven’t said to ourselves.”