Homeless people need a place to live

Editor, The News:

Re: Making of a ghetto in my neighbourhood (Letters, Sept. 28).

As I read the letter from M. Smythe regarding the 42-unit homeless facility being built at the corner of Brown Avenue and 222nd Street, I was struck by two things.

First was the assertion that people with developmental disabilities working at the recycling depot are worthy and deserving of our support, while the homeless people for whom the 42-unit facility is being built are not.

The writer made a number of statements in support of this view that were in error, chief among them the notion that the people working at the recycling depot are not supported financially.

As a caregiver for a person working at the recycling centre, I can assure M. Smythe that the person we care for is housed for free (with tax dollars), fed for free (with tax dollars) and has their laundry done for free (with tax dollars).

I can also attest that it is fiction to believe that the people working at the recycling depot arrive for work every day with pride and a sense of contributing to a job well done.  No doubt many do, just as many arrive at work the same way we all do, feeling good one day and less so another.

M. Smythe does a disservice to the population of people with developmental disabilities by inventing this illusory narrative about who they are and how they live.

The second thing I was struck by was the subtext of the letter. The underlying, unstated belief inherent in M. Smythe’s views is the notion that homeless people have only themselves to blame for their situation.

As someone who has spent more than 20 years working with homeless people, I can say that I have yet to meet anyone who wakes up one morning and decides to be an entitled, dissolute, self-indulgent, non-contributing homeless member of our society and who expects everyone to take care of them.

People are homeless for a variety of reasons – systemic poverty, childhood trauma, mental illness, and drug addiction, to name a few.

The uninformed and prejudicial opinions expressed in M. Smythe’s letter contribute nothing to a realistic understanding of homelessness and how we, as a society, can effectively deal with this issue.

The reality is that homeless people need a place to live that is welcoming.

The sinister observation that “there will be many people watching” is both creepy and unwelcoming.

If we believe the developmental disability community deserves our support, then we should believe the homeless deserve our support, as well.

Mark Smith

Maple Ridge