Letters: Closing safe house not option

Hopefully our elected leaders will step up to the plate to ensure these doors remain open for our children.

Editor, The News:

Re: Youth house safe for a month (The News, Dec. 31).

I am a correctional officer and instructor.

I recently read the article in which the announcement that the Iron Horse Youth Safe House could be closing its doors at the end of January.

Hopefully our elected community leaders are very concerned about this and will be stepping up to the plate to ensure these doors remain open for our children.

In the long run, it is more economical and beneficial for the taxpayer and our local youth to keep this house open, for many reasons and on many levels.

By closing the Iron Horse and shipping these children out of their community, away from their family, and placing them into a foster home is not the solution to save money.

A colleague of mine who is an addictions counsellor, briefed me on what her industry calls “the attachment theory” when dealing with individuals who struggle with addiction.

In the case of the Iron Horse, this support mechanism is a critical component for the staff to use to work with the children and their parents in finding real solutions on ways to re-unite them.

By shipping them out of their community and into foster homes, they will lose that thread of hope, attachment and reconnection with their family.

The federal and provincial governments’ “detachment theory” will only breed rejection, depression and the sense of hopelessness for these kids.

Over the past decade, I have encountered many young adults, 18 to 21 years old – kids really –who come into our jail who have already lived a lifetime.

The void in their eyes, the chips on their shoulders and the anger against everything and everyone is saddening and frustrating for me.

If these same kids had an opportunity to be part of the Iron Horse program or something equivalent in their community, how many could have been saved and re-directed with positive re-enforcement?

How much money will the government actually save by kicking these kids to the curb to defend for themselves?

Our institutions are filled with these chronic young offenders, or ‘frequent flyers,’ as we call them.

When you incorporate the cost of intervention and incarceration by multiple law enforcement and addiction agencies, what is the real cost to the taxpayer?

Spending a dollar to save a nickel is the government’s diluted  philosophy when it comes to making bold cuts to the budget.

The closing of the Iron Horse would represent this statement.

This short-term solution could become a long-term financial drain strain on the taxpayer.

As our elected officials, you have an opportunity to help change the course of these children’s lives by doing the right thing before it is too late and they become frequent customers of mine.

The value and support these children receive at Iron Horse truly have a positive effect on them transitionally while they are trying to move forward.

Everyone needs to stop with the whole ‘not my department’ scenario and start taking ownership.

You were elected to fight for what is right in your community and for your people.

If you are unable or incompetent to fight on behalf of the children in your community, then you need to do the right thing and step down from your post and allow someone who will.

Everyone has the right to feel safe in their community and it starts with our children.

Todd Oliver

Maple Ridge