Editor, The News:
Re: People pack homeless meeting (The News, Feb. 3).
I have been a resident of Maple Ridge for 35 of my 41 years and attended last week’s meeting on homelessness, hosted by local MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton.
People seemed to agree that the issue of homelessness includes mental illness, addiction and crime, and that, overall, it’s been getting worse, with many initiatives put forward, but no real action or plan put into place.
Also, this a provincial issue, not a municipal one.
Some felt the timing of the forum stunk like political propaganda leading up to a spring election.
Others said that ministries for education, health and housing are underfunded, but wouldn’t be if tax dollars were managed properly.
Residents feel that vulnerable people need options to recover and become functioning members of society.
First, the medical system needs to identify and treat the members of our society who suffer with mental illness.
We need health care workers in the education system to attend schools more than two hours a week to assist teachers in assessing students.
Family doctors and teachers aren’t enough when it takes a student over 12 months to be assessed.
Homelessness will not be solved by simply providing a bed and food.
Drugs today are mixed with fentanyl and carfentanil, and do more than cause people to become addicted.
The housing program in B.C. also needs to be run in a way to manage and quantify if it is being run successfully.
Simply opening more beds isn’t success. That should be measured in assisting the people who need it, transitioning homeless into programs that will either have them return to functioning members of society or have them housed in a facility that will get them the services they need to survive.
I think that a political party that is able to provide a plan with this in mind in the upcoming election will be seen as one of the hot points going forward.
I’m none of: teacher; doctor; psychologist; social worker; therapist; politician.
I am: a parent; youth sports coach; taxpayer; voter.
I think we need a plan that includes:
• more enforcement of the laws that are in place;
• a long-term mental care facility (similar to the care Riverview provided);
• more health care workers in schools to identify youth at risk;
• more health care services for the mentally ill;
• more drug treatment facilities;
• a complete overhaul to the B.C. Housing system and how the homeless are housed (current facilities should be used for 15-day maximum for assessment, then the person should be moved into a longer-term program, if needed).
No one wants the situation that is happening at the RainCity facility in Maple Ridge to be located in their neighborhood.
The truth is, unless an addict wants help, you can’t force it on them. But you also can’t enable it.
By letting addicts live in that manner, with no consequences, then it will never change.
People take advantage of the system, abuse it. Some people actually choose to not be responsible members of society.
I’m an optimist and hope that those people are the minority.
But for a drug addict who gets a cheque every two weeks and has no rent and is supplied food, we need to think of where that money goes.
I think that we’re losing sight of what the end goal should be: helping them to get the assistance they need.
I also think a little honesty would go a long way.