Editor, The News:
The issue of homelessness in Maple Ridge is definitely the number one issue facing our city.
Currently, we have a small, but growing number of people that are adversely affecting the rest of the 70,000 or so people.
Maple Ridge has been taking the track for some time of accommodating and facilitating the lifestyle of drug use rather than promoting change.
This seems to be at least in part due to a misguided idea that all severely addicted people need is shelter, food, clothes, and then when sufficiently accommodated, they will be in a state of readiness for the enlightenment of counsellors to guide them to change.
The philosophical basis for this seems to be the misguided idea that most of these people are: mentally ill or unable to make choices due to various adverse experiences.
My experience in community mental health nursing for the past 17 years, much of which was spent on an outreach team serving the severely ill, is that out of the hundreds I worked with, only a very small number were in the category of being users of hard drugs like meth and crack.
There is little doubt that the majority of the homeless have had various adversity, many with traumas.
There are also many people in our community that have also had great adversity and trauma, but are making an effort at improving their lives.
The notion that people can’t abide by the expectations of rules and guidelines is not doing them a favor, and certainly is causing chaos for the rest of society who are.
The low-barrier housing and “treatment” model is the reason why the trashed up areas of town have increased in areas like the Downtown East Side, Whalley area of Surrey and now in Maple Ridge.
The plethora of agencies supporting the addiction, not recovery, is a part of the problem, not helping to improve it.
We have the Maple Ridge Treatment Centre keeping people for five weeks, with masters level counsellors, when these same professionals understand that meth and crack users take months and months to become able to even process the concepts they are exposed to.
The stay lines up just nicely with the next ‘welfare Wednesday.’ which gets handed over to a dealer.
In my opinion, what would be far more sensible than an expensive plan to warehouse people who are homeless, it would be better to provide an actual place that has a chance of promoting change.
It is clear that this needs to be mandatory. How would a person who is in a cycle of severe addiction be likely to just suddenly decide to change?
A therapeutic community, not necessarily requiring many highly trained staff, where people can go to learn to get up early, have responsibilities and structure, learn life skills and how to abide by rules, as the rest of society does. This can’t be in the urban area. This is, ultimately not, compassionate.
Not all people who are homeless are drug addicts. There is a mix, but by far it seems that they are people who are wanting to live in the moment, avoid making positive changes and live where there is no expectations of them.
The pattern of destruction by a crowd who is determined not to conform to expectations are being enabled by our current programs …
Instead of tolerating this small group leaving used needles all over, shopping carts and bicycles, and trash strewn all over, let’s think about the welfare of the city, as a whole, and not participate in the irresponsible plan to build a huge low-barrier warehouse for people to come from all over to continue to do what they are doing at the expense of the safety and well-being of our citizens.